Employee Rights for Breast Pumping at Work

Posted on September 17, 2018 by Rick Rossignol

baby milk bottle

In the workplace, employees have rights when it comes to pumping during work hours. Mothers should not have to dread going to work and worry about finding a private place to pump. How can employers be accommodating to mothers and ensure they are following the FLSA requirements?

A Look at the Laws

Unfortunately, not everyone is covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act. It gives hourly employees the right to pump during work hours, and it cannot be done on break. The FLSA requires “…employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” The duration is open to interpretation, but it should be done within a realistic timeframe, so you can continue working when you are done pumping.

A Story to Share

Jenny Silverstone recently shared a blog explaining her worries in returning to work when she had her first baby. She reveals, “…the thought of taking my breast pump to work and finding a place where I could use it had me so nervous. The office I worked at wasn’t kid-friendly and that wasn’t going to change just because I had decided to have one.” Even though she was nervous, she decided to do some research to better understand her rights as a mother and as an employee.

Employer Accommodations

Employers are required to provide breastfeeding mothers with a private, lockable room. The bathroom does not suffice, as it is a shared room and the only seat available is a toilet. There are certain examples that demonstrate businesses experiencing challenges. For instance, one employee did not have an electrical outlet in the room where they could pump. The employer did not want to add one. The solution? Buy a battery-operated pump for your employees. Another employer did not have fridge space for the mother to store her milk. There were instances where breast milk was stolen by other employees in a shared fridge space. Investing in a mini-fridge is a nominal cost compared to the consequences of failing to comply with the law. Instead of making excuses for why you cannot comply with the law, there are plenty of solutions for your business that will save you time, money, and headaches in the long run.

Employee Retention

When you ignore your employees’ rights, you immediately create a negative environment for them. In refusing their rights and not offering flexibility, you could potentially lose a valuable employee. Offering a private and comfortable place for mothers demonstrates that you care about their needs. It can boost employee retention and also show other employees, who are not mothers, that they work for a company that cares about their employees.

The Costs

It may cost you some time and money to make the necessary accommodations, but these costs are not burdensome, especially when abiding by the law and respecting your employees. It does not have to be difficult or costly to make accommodations. Whether you block off a private conference room temporarily or supply your employee with a mini-fridge, it is crucial to take the right steps in protecting employee rights for breast pumping at work.

Do you need to stay up to date on California legislation in order to protect your business? RTR Consulting has more than 20 years devoted to developing effective and efficient Human Resources policies, procedures, and best practices for small to medium-sized businesses. Contact us today to learn more.

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