Being a nursing mother is hard, especially when trying to juggle work, while maintaining a pumping schedule. Of course, while one is at home, breast feeding is generally, pretty straight forward, but once the nursing mother returns to work, it can become complicated. And, for some employers, they believe that this is the nursing mom’s issue to solve, but according to federal law, the logistics of breast pumping at work is actually the responsibility of the employer.
The law itself
The employment law that makes breast pumping logistics the responsibility of the employer is Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 207(r)). It was modified by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148), colloquially known as the Affordable Care Act.
Who is covered?
All nursing mothers are covered, including full-time and part-time employees. In addition, this entitlement begins from the time the baby is born until one year thereafter, and this is in addition to FMLA leave.
A functional space
The first requirement of the FLSA is that the employer must provide a function space to express breast milk. This means a space that is shielded (i.e., private) from intrusion and interruption. These interruptions include from the public, customers and even from co-workers, supervisors and managers. The space must also be functional for the purpose of pumping. This likely means it needs an outlet for the pump, a place to sit, etc. There is no space or location requirement, so the room does not necessarily have to be conveniently located. But, before one thinks of the bathroom, the FLSA specifically prohibits the designation of a bathroom as the pumping room.
Time to express
The second requirement is that the Pasadena, California, employer must provide breaks for pumping. This does not mean that the employer has to pay for these breaks, but if there are any ongoing employment responsibilities during the pumping breaks, they must be paid. In addition, if there are already paid breaks provided by the employer, the nursing mother can elect to use those paid breaks as pumping breaks. The employer cannot mandate the pumping breaks be unpaid.