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John Bair
John Bair
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Moms: Know Your Rights in the Workplace

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nursing laws in the workplaceIn the 21st century, it’s mind-boggling to think that mothers still face adversity when it comes to doing something as fundamental as feeding their children. Unfortunately, there continues to be a constant influx of viral articles and social media posts recounting ridiculous situations in which nursing mothers were publicly ostracized.

However, when it comes to the workplace, it’s important to know that nursing mothers are protected by federal law — and often state law, too. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, we at Milestone have compiled a short breakdown of these laws that safeguard employees who are also mothers.

In 2010, the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) to require employers to provide an employee a reasonable break each time she needs to express milk for one year after childbirth. Employers must also provide nursing mothers with a place other than a bathroom that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from others.

There are a few specifics to know about this subsection, which are as follows:

  • Employers are not required to compensate an employee receiving a reasonable break time for any work time spent expressing milk.
  • A place of business with fewer than 50 employees is not subject to the requirements of this subsection if it would impose an undue hardship in terms of its “… size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.”

If a nursing employee lives in a state with stronger protection than those specified by federal law, she is first protected under the state laws. In New York, for example, Section 206-c of the Labor Law permits a mother to express milk for her child for up to three years after childbirth, rather than one year as allowed by federal law. There’s also text about protection from discrimination.

New York’s subsection protecting mothers is specifically as follows:

“An employer shall provide reasonable unpaid break time or permit an employee to use paid break time or meal time each day to allow an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for up to three years following child birth. The employer shall make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, in close proximity to the work area, where an employee can express milk in privacy. No employer shall discriminate in any way against an employee who chooses to express breast milk in the workplace.”

All public and private employees are protected under this law in New York State, no matter the size or nature of the business.

It’s important for mothers to be as informed as possible regarding the laws that protect them. If you’re the victim of discrimination in the workplace or your employer is failing to abide by federal and/or state law, it’s critical to speak up. Your voice could be the one to protect other mothers from unlawful adversity in the workplace.

2 Comments

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  1. Hero Doucas, SHRM-CP, PHR says:
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    There’s a contradiction i.e. ..if a place of business is under 50 employees employer is not required to provide this accommodation if it create hardship..” then how are the employees protected under this law in NYS ..”no matter what the size or nature of business…”

    • John Bair says:
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      Hero, the 50 employees+ rule is federal. As I mentioned in the post, in states that have stronger protection for nursing moms than those specified by federal law, those employees are first protected under the state laws. So, in New York specifically, the 50+ rule would not apply.

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