Nursing Mothers Entitled To Reasonable Breaks At Work

In March, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) took effect, amending Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The PPACA requires that employers must provide “reasonable amounts of time and a private place for breast-feeding employees to express milk.” In a recently issued fact sheet, the Wage and Hour division explains employers’ obligations regarding nursing mothers.

The fact sheet sets forth the following specific guidelines:

• Employers are required to required a “reasonable about of break time” to express milk as frequently as needed. The needs of the nursing mother will determine the frequency and length of the breaks.

• A private spot must be set aside for the mothers. Private bathrooms do not constitute “permissible locations.” The spot must serve as a functional space for expressing breast milk. If not specifically dedicated to nursing mothers, a temporary space may be sufficient if shielded from view, and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public. This space must be available until the employee’s child turns one.

• The requirements only apply to non-exempt employees. Employees are exempt if they fall into one of three principal exemptions – executive, administrative, or professional. Often determining whether you fall into an exempt category can be contentious – employers may try to classify you as exempt in order to avoid fulfilling obligations under the FLSA such as paying overtime or allowing nursing mothers a “reasonable amount of break time.”

• Where an employer has fewer than 50 employees, it need not provide a break time if compliance would impose an “undue hardship.” Factors evaluated to determine whether an undue hardship exists include size, financial resources, nature, and structure of the employer’s business.

• If an employee takes a break to express milk, employers are not require to pay for the time spent on break. However, if the employer compensates employees for other types of breaks, nursing mothers must be compensated as well.

Failure to comply any of these provisions may constitute a violation of the FLSA. For more information, or if believe you have been denied any rights under the FLSA, please contact Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, a Georgia Law Firm committed to protecting employee’s rights in the workplace.