The recently signed health care reform law includes a provision which amends the Fair Labor Standards Act adding new requirements for businesses employing nursing mothers. The Amendment requires that an employer provide the nursing mother with a reasonable break time to express breast milk as needed for one year after the child’s birth. An employer is also required to provide the mother with a nursing area, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion.
The Amendment does not require an employer to compensate the mother for any work time spent nursing. Additionally, the Amendment explicitly exempts employers with fewer than 50 employees if these requirements would impose an undue hardship on their operations. Specifically, an employer will be exempt if these requirements would cause significant difficulty and expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature or structure of its business.
It is important to note that the Amendment does not preempt State-specific laws that provide greater protection to employees who are nursing mothers. For example, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota are among those that have passed laws requiring employers to provide certain accommodations to nursing mothers. Therefore, in addition to implementing the foregoing requirements, employers must ensure that their practices are compliant with any State-specific law that provides protection beyond what the Amendment requires.