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Federal legal protections for breastfeeding workers

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Employment Law |

In recent years, federal law has evolved to offer specific protections for breastfeeding workers. These legal safeguards aim to create a more inclusive and supportive work environment. 

For employers and employees alike, understanding these protections is important to ensuring compliance and promoting a family-friendly workplace culture.

The FLSA sets the foundation

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are required to provide break time for the expression of breast milk for up to one year after a child’s birth. This right is extended to each time an employee needs to express milk. This means that employers must offer breaks throughout the day that align with the nursing mother’s needs, allowing her to facilitate her ability to express milk effectively.

Furthermore, the law mandates that employers provide a private place, where an employee can express breast milk. This place cannot be a bathroom. The designated space must be functional for expressing milk, implying it should have an electrical outlet, a place to sit, and ideally, a way to store the expressed milk safely.

It’s important to note that these federal protections apply to all nonexempt (hourly) workers covered by the FLSA. While exempt (salaried) employees are not explicitly covered under this provision, many states have enacted laws that extend similar or even broader protections to include all working mothers, regardless of their exempt or nonexempt status. Employers should be aware of both federal and state laws to ensure full compliance.

State and federal laws that address breastfeeding protections are both complex and are evolving quickly. Those with questions about their rights and/or obligations should keep in mind that seeking personalized legal feedback is always an option.