Protections for breastfeeding employees

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2022 | Sex Discrimination |

The law provides protections for employees who are pregnant, shielding them from discrimination on the basis of their condition. The legal protections do not stop after the birth of a baby.

Federal law requires that employers provide break time to employees who are breastfeeding to express milk, as well as a private, sanitary place in which to do so.

What is the history of federal legislation on this issue?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Affordable Care Act, a sweeping health care reform measure, amended the previous Fair Labor Standards Act to afford more protections to breastfeeding employees. Key provisions include the following:

  • Employers must provide a private space on the premises, other than a bathroom, for breastfeeding employees to express milk.
  • Employers must provide breastfeeding employees adequate break time to express milk.
  • Federal law does not supersede state laws that afford breastfeeding employees more rights.

For example, federal law requires that breastfeeding employees have adequate break time in which to express milk but does not require that employees receive compensation for it. Indiana law does require paid breaks for breastfeeding employees. Because the federal law does not pre-empt the more generous state requirements, employers in Indiana must compensate employees for break time taken to express milk.

Are there any exceptions to the law?

The law does not require an employer with less than 50 employees to comply with the requirements to provide a private space and break time to breastfeeding employees if the employer can show that doing so would impose an undue hardship. Employers also do not have to comply with the law if they have no breastfeeding employees.

Breastfeeding offers many benefits to babies and mothers alike. Federal protections mean that a person’s job does not have to influence the decision to nurse a baby, and vice versa.


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