Pumping at Work: Know Your Legal Rights as a Breastfeeding Mom
Hey supermoms! When you clock in for a shift, sometimes you've also gotta clock out for milk. Pumping breast milk at work is just a normal part of continuing breastfeeding after returning from maternity leave. But did you know there are federal laws in place to protect your right to pump at work? Arm yourself with knowledge and don't let the (breast)milk spill!
The Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – the federal wage and hour law – says if you're an employee covered by the FLSA, your employer is legally required to:
- Provide reasonable break time to express breast milk as frequently as needed. Typically this means granting nursing mothers 2-3 15-20 minute pumping breaks per 8-hour shift, given a normal pumping schedule. If you need to pump more often due to your milk supply, pumping speed, or other factors, you have the right to request additional breaks.
- Give nursing mothers private space, other than a bathroom, to pump breast milk in privacy and comfort. This space should be in close proximity to your work area and provide access to electricity and a place to sit. A designated lactation room just for pumping moms is ideal.
- Ensure you receive your normal wages and benefits during these FLSA-protected breaks. Pumping breaks cannot be counted against paid leave allotments or result in any salary reduction. You continue earning your full paycheck while taking time to pump!
Now what constitutes a “reasonable number” of breaks to express milk will depend on your personal pumping schedule, the time you need for pumping, your shift duration, and other considerations. The key is that your employer must make a good faith effort to accommodate your needs, not arbitrarily limit the number of breaks allowed.
Additionally, pumping breaks are separate from typical rest and meal breaks. You cannot legally be forced to use your regular breaks for expressing milk. Lactation breaks are specifically for pumping, while normal break times are still yours for personal use. This distinction is protected by the FLSA lactation provisions.
Your legal right to pump at work continues for as long as you are breastfeeding and producing milk, whether it's just the first 6 weeks postpartum or for several months to a year after childbirth. Federal law protects nursing mothers for as long as you're lactating and need to pump.
So don't be afraid to stand up for your pumping rights under the FLSA if your employer isn't accommodating your needs. Nurse comfortably, pump in private without stigma, and take the reasonable break time you need to provide breast milk for your baby. Your boss may give you flak, but you have the full weight of federal law on your side.
And if you feel your employer isn't following FLSA lactation accommodations or retaliating against you for asserting your pumping rights, contact an employment lawyer. An attorney can provide expert guidance in enforcing your legal protections as a breastfeeding employee under federal law. Don't let anyone squeeze you dry - you've got this!