August is National Breastfeeding Month! What better way to celebrate than by reading up on your rights? Here’s a primer of federal and state breastfeeding laws for moms who want to keep breastfeeding when they head back to work.
The Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protects working mothers’ right to express breast milk at work. The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) amended the FLSA in 2010 to require covered employers to give workers reasonable break time to express breast milk, or pump, for a year after a child is born. The law also requires that employers provide a private place to pump that is not a bathroom. Federal government employees are also covered by the federal breastfeeding law, regardless of whether they are considered “exempt” or “non-exempt.” For more information about the law, check out the Department of Labor’s FAQ. Keep in mind that not all workers and employers are covered by FLSA—the law that sets minimum wage and overtime requirements. It may also illegal under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act for your boss to punish or discriminate against you because you are lactating. Contact A Better Balance if you have questions about your coverage.
Even if your employer is not covered by FLSA, you may have rights under your state’s laws. Almost all states have laws allowing you to breastfeed in public. Many states also protect the rights of working mothers to pump at work. In California, Hawaii, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont, for example, it is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you for expressing breast milk or pumping at work. Many state laws, like federal law, also require employers to provide break time and/or a private space for nursing mothers to express milk at work. For example, in Indiana, employers with at least 25 employees must provide a clean, private place to pump, and, if possible, a refrigerator to store breast milk in the workplace. Colorado law requires employers to provide reasonable break time for workers to express breast milk for up to two years after a child’s birth. And if you work in one of the states or cities that now guarantees reasonable accommodations on the job for conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth you may have additional legal protections to help you continue breastfeeding while heading back to work. Check Babygate to learn about the laws where you work.
A Better Balance supports the right of women who choose to breastfeed to be treated fairly at work. Please note that the laws are complex and this post is not intended to provide legal advice. Please consult with a local attorney or call our free legal clinic if you have questions about your rights.