The University of Minnesota recently published a study reporting that only 40% of working mothers were provided with adequate break time and a clean, private space for expressing milk upon their return to work from parenting leave. To help employers avoid liability for failing to comply with applicable legal requirements relating to nursing mothers, here is a quick reminder about what the law requires:

Federal Nursing Mother Protections

Under federal law, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that employers must provide employees with unpaid “reasonable break time” to express milk for their child for up to one year after the child is born. For these breaks, the employer must provide the employee with a private space, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public. Employers with less than 50 employees may be able to avoid this requirement, however, if they can show that it imposes an undue hardship. For more information, click here.

Minnesota Nursing Mother Protections

Under Minnesota law, the recently passed Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) also creates protections for nursing mothers. WESA requires that employers must provide an employee with “reasonable unpaid break time each day to an employee who needs to express breast milk for her infant child.” The law specifies that the employer must provide a room or other location, in close proximity to the work area, other than a bathroom or a toilet stall, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public and that includes access to an electrical outlet, where the employee can express her milk in privacy. Like the FLSA, there is an exception to these requirements if the employer can show that they would “unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.” For more information, click here.

Takeaway: The University of Minnesota’s recent study suggests that many employers may be exposed to potential liability for failure to comply with legal requirements relating to nursing mothers. If employers are in doubt, they should review their practices to ensure compliance.