Employment Law and Breastfeeding: What Are Your Rights?

By Gregory Thyberg on February 01, 2019


An employment law bookEmployment law offers workers many protections, giving workers legal recourse when employers don't live up to certain standards and requirements.

Many women who return to work after maternity leave wonder what their rights are when it comes to breastfeeding. Employment laws specifically protect breastfeeding mothers who return to work, mandating that basic accommodations be provided.

When breastfeeding is not accommodated, it may be time to contact an attorney. Employment law attorney Gregory Thyberg understands employment law and breastfeeding in Sacramento, CA, and can determine if you have a case.

What Does Employment Law Say about Breastfeeding and Work?

Federal law protects women's rights when breastfeeding while employed. The law is the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law and requires that all employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provide breastfeeding mothers basic accommodations while at work.

Accommodations include time to pump or express milk and a private space in which to do so. The law specifies that bathrooms do not qualify as a private space and other accommodations must be provided.

Who Is Covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act?

Only employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are required to follow the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law. However, the FLSA applies to most companies, specifically those who have annual sales of $500,000 or more and engage in interstate commerce.

Interstate commerce has a broad interpretation by the courts and can include companies that send mail to and from other states or regularly make phone calls or use computers to do business with other states.

There are very few employers who are exempt from the FLSA. One example would be small farms that are operated by a family and use few paid employees.

One complexity of the FLSA is that not all employees may be covered by the FLSA and the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, even if the company is covered by the FLSA.

Generally, hourly employees will be covered by the FLSA and protected by the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law. Salaried and contract workers are not always covered. One way to find out if you are covered is to speak with a supervisor or human resource manager.

The Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law Requirements

Companies covered by the FLSA must follow the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law for employees also covered by the FLSA. The two primary requirements are providing time to pump or express milk along with a private space to pump.

A Reasonable Amount of Time Must Be Provided

The Break Time for Nursing Mothers law requires employers to provide women a reasonable amount of time to express milk. Standard breaks and lunch periods may be used, but additional time should be given if needed.

In workplaces that have set schedules, women should be allowed to schedule breaks to express milk ahead of time so that their needs can be accommodated.

Although time must be provided, employers are not required to pay women while taking time to express milk.

A Private Space Must Be Provided

Under the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, a private space must be provided for mothers to express breast milk. This private space cannot be a bathroom as this is not sanitary. Breast milk is food and food should not be prepared in a bathroom.

Private spaces may be a permanently dedicated lactation room or temporary, such as a tall cubicle. Simply putting a lock on an office door can provide sufficient privacy under the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law.

Contact Employment Law Attorney Gregory Thyberg

If you have been denied time or accommodations for your breastfeeding needs while at work, you may have legal recourse. To discuss the details of your case, please call (916) 204-9173 to schedule a consultation with attorney Gregory Thyberg.

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