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Nursing Mothers Entitled to Reasonable Breaks

October 20, 2010
Related Topics: Benefit Design and Communication, Medical Benefits Law, Featured Article

T he U.S. Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division has issued a fact sheet clarifying an employer’s obligations under the break-time requirement for nursing mothers found in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The health reform law amended Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act to require that employers provide nursing mothers with a “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.”

The Labor Department explained that employers are required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” The agency clarified that a space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient.

According to the Wage and Hour Division’s fact sheet, “the frequency of breaks needed to express milk as well as the duration of each break will likely vary.” Employers are not required to compensate nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk; however, where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way as other employees.

These provisions only apply to nonexempt employees. The law also offers a safe harbor for employers with fewer than 50 employees if compliance would cause an undue hardship. For additional information, please access the Wage and Hour Division’s Fact Sheet No. 73, which is available at

Impact: Because break time requirements for nursing mothers do not pre-empt state laws that provide greater protections to employees, employers are advised to review the applicable state laws and to provide reasonable break time for nursing mothers to express milk in a private place.

Workforce Management, October 2010, p. 7 -- Subscribe Now!

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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