Got Milk? Breastfeeding, Break Time, and Wages: Oh My.
Unfortunately, as breastfeeding mothers know all too well, when you need to pump, you need to pump – and you do not likely have control if this need arises in the midst of your workday. So, what is a breastfeeding mother to do when you need to pump? Worst yet, if your employer is not agreeable to providing you a break to pump or a private place to do so, what are your rights? ? The answers are clear, but not always followed, as highlighted by a recent article in the Huffington Post. What do you need to know about breastfeeding and employment discrimination lawsuits?
Break Time for Nursing Mothers
The most significant nationwide legal provision to help protect breastfeeding mothers in recent years came through the Affordable Care Act. As the U.S. Department of Labor explains, the Affordable Care Act “amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth east time such employee has need to express the milk.” In addition, that amendment to the FLSA required employers to “provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
An the U.S. Department of labor clarifies that the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” provision of the FLSA requires employers to do the following:
- Provide a reasonable amount of break time; and
- Provide a space to express breast milk.
Yet there are some limitations, including but not limited to the following:
Only employers covered by the FLSA are bound by the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” provision;
Employers do not have to provide paid break time for expressing breast milk unless they already provide paid break time to other employees, and nursing mothers use that same time for the purposes of expressing breast milk;
Employers do not have to create a permanent space for the purposes of expressing breast milk, and instead can temporarily convert a space for this purpose; and
- Employers do not have to provide a space for lactation unless they have a nursing mother employee.
Difficulty Obtaining Lactation Spaces
Despite the fact that the law requires employers to create a lactation space when they have nursing mothers who are employees, the Huffington Post article explains that employers are not always providing such spaces. Additionally, not all employers are providing employees with breaks, either. Based on data from a University of Minnesota study, “three out of every five American moms report that they do not have access to both space and breaks.”
But it is important to note that many women are filing employment discrimination claims when their employers refuse to provide lactation breaks and/or lactation spaces. A report issued by the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law indicated that “employment discrimination lawsuits filed by nursing moms have increased by 800 percent over the last decade.”
If you are a nursing mother and were not provided with required lactation breaks or a lactation space, you may be able to file an employment discrimination claim. An experienced labor lawyer can help. Contact Scott • Wagner and Associates to learn more about how we can help.