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Expressing Breast Milk in the Workplace

Best employment practices should motivate employers to accommodate mothers who make reasonable requests to express breast milk in the workplace. If a family friendly workplace and best practices don’t provide sufficient motivation, avoiding legal liability should. Depending upon the industry you are in, your geographic location, and the type of employee making the request (e.g., exempt versus non-exempt), one or more federal, state or local laws might require an employer to make a reasonable effort to accommodate breast pumping requests, and prohibit employers from discriminating or retaliating against female employees for making such requests.

Under some circumstances, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires an employer to provide time for an employee to express breast milk.

Under other circumstances, the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) requires employers to provide nursing mothers with reasonable break time in a private space for expressing breast milk. The “nursing mother breast time requirement,” as it is sometimes called, became part of the FLSA when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March of 2010. The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor has been providing compliance assistance and enforcing the law since that time.

An employer also may be liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978) for discriminating or retaliating against a female employee because she is lactating or expressing breast milk.

For a confidential analysis of issues you have on this topic, or questions about TRC’s Employment and Labor practice areas, please contact W. James Rogers, Esq. at (412) 316-8651 or [email protected], or Jerry Hogenmiller, Esq. at (412) 316-8689 or [email protected].

Important Notice: This information is intended for general guidance only, and should not be used as a substitute for specific legal advice. For specific legal advice applicable to your situation, you should consult an attorney of your choice. Although believed to be accurate when written, no guarantee of completeness or accuracy to your particular circumstances should be implied. Laws, regulations, and court decisions in this area change frequently, and you should consult the attorney of your choice for up-to-date information.