Workplace Support in Federal Law
What is the "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" law?
Effective March 23, 2010, this federal law requires employers to provide break time and a place for most hourly wage-earning and some salaried employees (nonexempt workers) to express breast milk at work. The law states that employers must provide a "reasonable" amount of time and that they must provide a private space other than a bathroom. They are required to provide this until the employee's baby turns one year old.
This provision was passed as Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which amended Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 207) by adding at the end the following:
An employer shall provide—
(A) a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk; a
(B) a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.
An employer shall not be required to compensate an employee receiving reasonable break time under paragraph (1) for any work time spent for such purpose.
An employer that employs less than 50 employees shall not be subject to the requirements of this subsection, if such requirements would impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.
Nothing in this subsection shall preempt a State law that provides greater protections to employees than the protections provided for under this subsection.
Questions About the "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" Law
You or your employer may have questions about how the "Break Time for Nursing Mothers' law applies to you. Many common questions and concerns are addressed in the following sources:
- U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (WHD):
- U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health (OWH):
- Supporting Nursing Moms at Work: Employer Solutions: online resource to support employers of breastfeeding women at work, searchable by either "industry" sector or "solution" type
- "Supporting Nursing Moms at Work" Presentation Platform: assists breastfeeding coalitions and educators with advocacy and outreach to employers
- Business Case for Breastfeeding: a comprehensive program developed to educate employers about the value of supporting breastfeeding employees in the workplace
- Womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding: provides tips, suggestions, and important information and resources for breastfeeding women
What You Need to Know About the "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" Law
This guide compiles the above resources in an easy to understand format to ensure all moms have the information they need to make working and breastfeeding a success. It was designed to help employees understand their rights as a breastfeeding mom in the workplace and serve as a break time resource for families and employers with questions about the law. Click the topics below to learn more:
- Are the breaks paid or unpaid?
- Who is covered by the law?
- What if your state already has a law?
- Who is in charge of enforcing the law?
- What are the benefits to employers?
- How should you prepare to go back to work?
- How should you talk to your employer about nursing breaks?
- What does the undue hardship exemption mean for employees?
- What are the space requirements?
- How much time is "reasonable"?
- How often can you pump during the workday?
- How long do you have the right to pump at work?
- How should you store your breast milk?
- What equipment and supplies do you need?
- What are creative solutions for break time and space?
- What do you do if your employer refuses to comply?
- Where should you go for help?
- How else does the Affordable Care Act impact breastfeeding families?
- What other resources are available?
- What about helpful breastfeeding tips?
Creation of this content was funded in part by a contract with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.