Boobs and Babes in the Workplace

Nursing Mothers in The Workplace

Ok, get your mind out of the gutter. This is not a story about a strip club or anything risqué like that. This is actually about nursing mothers. Or more specifically about the amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act that was included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA). Some of you, especially in smaller companies, may not know that a provision was put into the FLSA that requires you to provide break time and space for nursing mothers to be able to express breast milk as needed, hence the title of boobs and babes in the workplace.

What is required?

When the amendment was first published there was some lack of definition, but basically, it required the following:

Employers must provide a “reasonable break time” for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child.  The requirement applies for one year after the child’s birth.  There was no limit on the number of the breaks to be provided, and it did not contain any guidance the duration of such breaks.

In addition to providing reasonable breaks, the employer must also provide a place where the employee can express breast milk.  The place must be somewhere other than a bathroom and must be “shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.”

The law exempts any employer with fewer than 50 employees if providing the break (or the place to express breast milk) would impose an “undue hardship” on the employer.  Under the PPACA, “undue hardship” is defined as “causing the employer significant difficulty or expense” when considered in relation to relevant factors. There was no clear definition of relevant factors.

The Department of has provided some guidance on this with a fact sheet and some additional guidance on state laws.

Smaller employers often unaware.

Smaller employers are often unaware that they have this obligation. There is the hardship clause that may exempt them but I would not hang my hat on that without significant documentation on how and why it is an undue hardship. Without that the DOL representative that comes to investigate a complaint is not going to buy your story.

Breastfeeding in your workplace?

Is there someone in your workplace that openly breastfeeds? Has your employer referenced any of the discussed acts? 

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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.

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