On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. While the complete impact of this act on employers remains to be seen, one provision in particular will necessitate an immediate change to the workplace environment.
Entitled Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers, Section 4207 of the act amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and requires covered employers to allow a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk. For one year after the birth of a child, an employee must be allowed a reasonable break from work any time she needs to express milk. In addition, the law requires employers to create or designate a lactation area, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion.
Although an employee may take a reasonable break whenever she has a need to express milk, an employer is not required to compensate her for this break time. Furthermore, an employer with less than 50 employees may be exempt from this law if compliance would impose an undue hardship caused by significant difficulty or expense. Factors taken into consideration when assessing the hardship are the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.
It is also important to note that several states, including Indiana, have laws regarding the rights of nursing mothers in the workplace. The new provision of the FLSA would serve to supplement any rights that may be provided under state law.
For additional information, please contact a member of Taft’s Labor and Employment Department.