August is National Breastfeeding Month, and it’s important for both employers and employees to know that the Fair Labor Standards Act requires breaks for mothers to express breast milk during the workday. We know that breastfeeding requires supportive environments − including our workplaces.
A provision of the FLSA requires employers to provide a reasonable amount of break time as well as a space to express milk as frequently as needed by a nursing mother, for up to one year following the birth of her child. Here are some other requirements:
- The space must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.
- The use of a bathroom is not an acceptable space to provide to nursing mothers expressing milk.
- Nursing employees must have access to this space each time they need to express milk.
- The frequency of breaks needed to express breast milk as well as the duration of each break depends on several factors and may vary.
This week the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division published an employee rights card that outlines the FLSA’s basic requirements for break time, lists resources where additional information can be found (including a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone), and shares how to file a complaint with the division if an employee feels her rights have been violated.
We encourage you to visit the nursing mothers section of the Wage and Hour Division’s website, download the new employee rights card and help us spread the word about these resources. There is also a link that allows other agencies and stakeholders to share the card through their websites.
The Labor Department is celebrating the Fair Labor Standards Act’s 75th anniversary this year. The FLSA was originally passed in an effort to end oppressive child labor and to establish minimum labor standards regarding workers’ “wages and hours.” The “nursing mothers” provision is just one way the FLSA has evolved over the decades to protect and strengthen an ever-changing workforce.
For more information about efforts by the Wage and Hour Division and the department’s Women’s Bureau to create inclusive workplaces for women, click here.
Laura Fortman is the principal deputy administrator of the department’s Wage and Hour Division. Latifa Lyles is the acting director of the department’s Women’s Bureau.