Know Your Rights: Breastfeeding in the Workplace

by Laura Fortman and Latifa Lyles on August 30, 2013 · 4 comments

Nursing Mothers' Rights at WorkAugust 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.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Priyanka September 5, 2013 at 5:53 am

A big thanks to Laura for sharing such an informative post at a very apt time as my sister is about to join after the maternity leave.

2 Janel Hughes-Jones September 13, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Thank you so much at such an opportune time! One of my clients is being given a hard time while pumping at work. She has been moved from an office, to a changing room- where they moved a bench that she was sitting on while pumping that has been positioned there for years, to a bathroom. She contacted me 2 days ago because while pumping a man cleaning the bathrooms entered and she barely had enough time to get covered up. She was very emotional about the situation.
Thank you again,
Janel Hughes-Jones IBCLC

3 http://debtokey.com October 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I also think 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.

4 Stephanie F. November 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm

At my place of employment I don’t get a standard break. I take a break if no one is calling, at my desk, and my tasks are completed. I also work alone-so, if I leave to pump I would leave the phone unanswered or customers waiting (for about 30 minutes). How can my employer and I work something out so I can express milk during my workday without infringing on my rights/impairing my ability to feed my baby or alienating my employer?

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