New Guidance on Law Requiring Breaks for Nursing Mothers

Employers are affected by the health-care legislation, also known as the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act, in numerous ways. One of the lesser-known parts of the Act is Section 4207, which amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Section 4207, also called Reasonable Breaks for Nursing Mothers, requires employers to provide nursing mothers reasonable breaks to express breast milk and a separate room where they can take the break for up to the first year after the child’s birth. (See FLSA Now Requires Breastfeeding Breaks and a Place to Take Them).  baby bottle

The law took effect in March but employers have been without any guidance on what the law requires.  Until now, that is.  The Department of Labor has issued an official fact sheet providing some guidance on the specific requirements under the law.  Fact Sheet #73 offers the following guidance:

Who Is Eligible for Breaks

Only non-exempt employees are affected by the law.

Frequency and Duration of Breaks

Breaks must be provided “as frequently as needed by the nursing mother.”  The frequency of breaks and the length of each break “will likely vary.”

Location of Breaks

The Fact Sheet makes clear that a bathroom, even if private, is not considered a suitable location for nursing mothers to express milk.  The Fact Sheet states that, “[i]f the space is not dedicated to the nursing mother’s use, it must be available when needed in order to meet the statutory requirement.  A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space is shielded from view, and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public.”

Exceptions to the Rule

Employers with less than 50 employees are not subject to the rule if it would impose an undue hardship. “Hardship” is relative, compared to the employer’s size and financial resources.

Click here to read the entire Fact Sheet #73 (PDF)

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