An amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act is included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the landmark health care reform law. This new law requires employers to provide “reasonable” unpaid breaks for nursing employees to express breast milk. Employers also must furnish a private location, other than a restroom. The law does not define what constitutes a “reasonable length” break, but it does specify that lactation breaks must be provided each time the employee needs to express milk and for up to one year after a child’s birth. Employers with fewer than fifty (50) employees may be exempt from this requirement if the breaks would cause “undue hardship” by subjecting the employer to “significant difficulty or expense.”
Massachusetts has no existing law relating to nursing mothers in the workplace, and some employers in the Commonwealth may need to revise or expand their current break policies to reflect this change to the FLSA. Employers in states that have previously enacted laws relating to nursing mothers in the workplace will need to adhere, going forward, to whichever break policy is more favorable to the employee.
The FLSA amendment became effective immediately. However, the Department of Labor has not yet established the rules for enforcement, which should give employers time to comply once those rules take effect.