A Little Known Federal Right for Nursing Mothers
“There are three reasons for breast-feeding:
the milk is always at the right temperature;
it comes in attractive containers;
and the cat can’t get it.”
- Irena Chalmers
THE LAW: Although unknown to many people, the Patient Protections and Affordable Care Act of 2010, known as the “Affordable Care Act” or “ObamaCare,” amended the federal law of workplace rights to require employers to provide to almost all female employees 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 has a need to express milk.
Employers are also required to provide 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 the employee to express milk.
The law was enacted as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA” for short) the federal law that requires overtime pay for employees who work more than 40 hours in a work week. Employees tend to think that anyone who gets a weekly salary is not entitled to overtime pay; that is very much wrong. It has been estimated that 80% to 85% of all employees in the U.S. are entitled to overtime pay, although many of them are not aware of their right to overtime. (To review our newsletter entitled “80% of Americans are Entitled to Overtime Pay; Are You?” that explains who is entitled to overtime pay, and who is not, simply [click here].) If those estimates are correct, then this new law regarding breast milk work breaks should, in turn, apply to 80%-85% of working women who are breast feeding or plan to breast feed.
LESSON TO LEARN: Many people believe that breastfeeding is a very natural, positive and beneficial thing for a new mother to provide her newborn. For those moms who work outside the home, however, expressing breast milk for later use is the next best alternative.
In recognition of and in response to the desire of so many working women to provide breast milk to their babies, the U.S. Congress incorporated into the Affordable Care Act a federal legal right to (a) daily breaks to express milk, and (b) suitably clean and private places to do so, other than a bathroom.
For you and for the women in your life, it may be a good idea to become familiar with the law.
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