Employers are often reluctant to speak with new moms who are breastfeeding or pumping regarding how their nursing will impact the workplace.  But with more than 3 out of 4 new mothers in the U.S. choosing to breastfeed their babies, the failure to engage these employees about their needs when it comes to breastfeeding or pumping can open the employer up to civil and regulatory liability.  So talk with your postpartum employees about how you can accommodate their needs on your own premises during the workday.

The Affordable Care Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to require that employers with more than 50 employees provide a “reasonable” break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the birth.  Note that the affected employee need not be paid during this break time.  What is “reasonable” will be a fact-specific analysis of the employee’s job duties and hours.

37419462_sBut in the context of this requirement, that “when” is often easier to navigate than the “where.” Federal regulations also require that covered employers provide an area, other than a bathroom, that is 1) that is shielded from view, and 2) free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.  The easiest way to satisfy this requirement is to provide a room that locks from the inside. Given the layout of your facility, this may require minor renovations or the relocation of other employees.

But the federal regulations are only a floor of what employers must provide.  Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have their own laws with respect to breastfeeding in the workplace, though most simply extend the federal regulations to employers of all sizes.

With minimal efforts, you can bring your workplace in to compliance and ensure that the new moms on your payroll can fulfill their responsibilities to both you and their child.