Buried in the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a provision requiring employers to provide “a reasonable break time” for nursing mothers to express breast milk. The legislation also requires employers 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 an employee to express breast milk.”
The law, which takes the form of an Amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, does not require employers to compensate employees for such breaks. Additionally, employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from these requirements, provided the employer can show that compliance would impose an undue hardship.
These new federal requirements became effective March 23, 2010, the date of the law’s enactment. Employers are advised to ensure that their nursing break practices comply with this new federal law and any applicable state law. More than 20 states, including California, Illinois and New York, as well as the District of Columbia, also have laws protecting nursing mothers in the workplace.