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Breastfeeding and the Workplace

BreastfeedingBreastfeeding is a perfectly natural practice for mothers of young children, but the practice tends to raise strong opinions. Unfortunately, this is sometimes the case in the workplace. Though you might assume there wouldn’t be an issue in the workplace unless the child is present to be fed, the truth is mothers must use a breast pump to remove milk even if they are not actively feeding their baby. Mothers have little to no control over the need to pump and employers must act reasonably when it comes to nursing mothers on their staff.

If you’re a nursing mother what should you know about your rights in the workplace?

Federal law protects your rights as a breastfeeding mother. This protection was expanded in the Affordable Care Act and amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The law requires employers to provide reasonable time away from work duties to express breast milk when nursing for up to a year after the child’s birth. These nursing breaks should be provided as needed and be for a reasonable length of time.

Furthermore, employers must provide a place other than a bathroom that offers some privacy from co-workers and from the public to express milk.

There are some limitations to the law.

For instance, only employers that fall under the requirements of the FLSA need to provide break time for nursing. The break also does not need to be “on the clock,” which means employees taking nursing breaks don’t need to be paid for their time expressing milk unless paid breaks are provided to other employees in the same ratio.

For instance, if all employees receive two paid breaks per day and a nursing mother uses her breaks to express milk, those breaks must be paid.

Employers are also not responsible for creating a permanent milk expressing space, nor do they need to provide space unless there is a nursing mother on the staff.

New York’s Nursing Laws

In addition to the federal law protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed and express milk, New York created a Breastfeeding Mothers Bill of Rights that offers additional protection.

In addition to enforcing the rights of the federal law, New York’s law extends the time a mother has a right to take breaks to express milk up to three years after the birth of her child.

To read more about New York’s breastfeeding law, visit the website for the state’s Department of Health.

What If Your Employer Has Not Provided a Nursing Space?

Despite the law, many employers still fail to provide a nursing or breast milk expressing space for mothers. There is also evidence nursing mothers are not being provided with reasonable break time for expressing milk.

If you are a new mother and you know of no place to express milk when you are at work and away from your baby, the first thing you should do is ask your employer to provide such a space. In some instances, employers have never had a nursing mother on staff and don’t realize this is a necessary requirement. Furthermore, they don’t realize it’s a legal requirement.

Respectfully request your employer provide you with needed break time and space to take care of your nursing needs. This is often enough to get the change you need.

If your employer refuses or denies your right to take care of expressing milk, you might have a right to take legal action. If the law applies to your employer and that employer does not accommodate you, it is a violation of your rights.

If you’d like to know more about your rights as a nursing mother in the workplace or you believe the rights have been violated, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C.


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