On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me eight maids a milking. I promise you, the closer we get to Christmas the more I question whether this guy really is my true love. Despite my decreasing interest in this romance, it does remind me of a recent question I received from a client, specifically what must I do to accommodate lactating moms in the workplace? It’s a valid question that encompasses both state and federal requirements, so here is a little bit of information about your responsibilities under both:
- Under Maine law, an employer has a responsibility to provide nursing mothers (for up to three years after the birth of a child) with adequate unpaid break time to express breast milk, or permit employees to use paid break time or meal time each day. Additionally, the employer must make reasonable efforts to provide a clean room where an employee may express breast milk in privacy. This location must be a place other than a bathroom. There are a few exceptions to this requirement, including if providing time or an appropriate private space would substantially disrupt the employer’s operations. If you find yourself in a position in which you believe that accommodating such a request would, in fact, substantially disrupt operations, please seek legal counsel before conveying this information to the employee as claims of discrimination could be made as a result of your refusal.
- Under federal law, employers also have obligations. Under the FLSA, employers must provide reasonable break time for employees to express breast milk for her nursing child from one year after the child’s birth in a place other than a bathroom that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public. In 2013, the Fifth Circuit in EEOC v. Houston Funding II, Ltd., held that lactation is a medical condition related to pregnancy and that discrimination against an individual because she is lactating or expressing milk is unlawful sex discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Title VII.