The results of a recent survey conducted by Wakefield Research revealed that only 18% of nursing mothers know all their lactation rights in the workplace. The survey polled 1,000 working mothers in the U.S. with children ages two and under who are breastfeeding or recently breastfed.
Many of the respondents (53%) also said their hours were cut or their workload was altered without their consideration because they were new mothers. In addition, those who had their workload altered were more likely to have experienced frustrating or embarrassing incidents while pumping/breastfeeding during work (83% vs. 48%). Incidents such as someone walking in on them, making a rude comment, or asking them to pump at a different time or place.
Per Section 7 (r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FMLA) (federal law) an employer must provide a reasonable break time and room, other than a bathroom, for an employee’s lactation needs for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth as needed. Compensation is not required for this breaktime. The room must be shielded from intrusion from coworkers or the public. An employer that employs less than 50 employees will not be subject to the requirements if they would impose undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense.
In New York State, where ESC and many of our clients are located, the law is even more stringent. Under the NYS Labor Law Section 206-C, NYS Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act, breastfeeding mothers are guaranteed the right to pump milk at work for three years after giving birth. Paid break, mealtimes, or reasonable unpaid break times can be used to pump milk. These breaks can be up to 20 minutes long. The employer is required to allow these breaks to be made up before or after normal shift hours if the time falls within the employer’s normal work hours. All employers must comply, not only those with fewer than 50 employees. Employers in other states should be aware of their state DOL laws regarding the rights of breastfeeding mothers.