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As part of healthcare reform, the federal government created an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act providing for reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for a nursing child. Here’s a quick Q&A on the rules of the amendment:
- How long is the employee eligible for the benefit? The employee is eligible for up to one year after the child’s birth.
- Must the employee be paid for the nursing breaks? The time need not be paid unless it would be considered work time under any other standard break-time requirements under the FLSA. In other words, if you normally give employees a 20-minute break while they’re officially on the clock, then that time similarly would be paid for a nursing break. Further, a nursing employee could use any normally paid breaks for expressing milk, and that time would be paid, too.
- How long should the breaks be? The Wage & Hour Division encourages employers to be “flexible” and to consider factors such as the child’s age, whether solid food is being consumed, etc. As a guide, the DOL estimates that nursing mothers will typically need two or three 20-minute breaks in an eight-hour shift.
- What about space accommodations? The space dedicated for nursing mothers to express breast milk must be private and cannot be a bathroom. The facility must provide a place to sit, a flat surface on which to place the pump and an electrical outlet. If refrigeration isn’t available, the nursing employee should be allowed to bring a cooler for the milk.
- Who’s covered and who’s not? The requirement is applicable only for hourly workers in companies that have more than 50 employees. Companies with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt if the employer is able to show undue hardship.
To see a DOL fact sheet about the break-time amendment, go here.