New rights for nursing mothers

The Fair Labor Standards Act now guarantees reasonable breaks to most nursing mothers to express breast milk for a nursing child. Under Section 7 of the Act, an employer covered by the FLSA must:

  1. Provide 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 the employee needs to express milk;
  2. Provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is free from view and intrusion, where the employee may express milk in private.

The requirement applies only to non-exempt employees. Breaks can be unpaid, and employers with fewer than 50 employees are excused from the requirement if it would cause the employer “difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.”

The new federal requirement does not pre-empt state laws that provide greater protection to employees (providing paid breaks, providing break time longer than one year after a child’s birth, etc.). Colorado law provides breaks for up to two years. Maine, New York, Vermont and Virginia guarantee breaks for three years. Laws in other states (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Vermont) have no stated time limit.