Breastfeeding/Pumping in the Workplace
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that mothers breastfeed for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mother and baby desire. Yet many women with children age three and younger work full time outside of the home. Many of these mothers return to full time work within three months after giving birth. As a result, working outside the home correlates to a shorter duration of breastfeeding. Knowing your rights as a breastfeeding employee can help you plan a successful transition back to work and enable you to continue breastfeeding your baby.
Employees in New Jersey are protected from pregnancy-related discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). Moreover, under this Act, New Jersey employers are obligated to provide reasonable accommodations for women to breastfeed or express breast milk during the work day. New Jersey law prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of pumping/breastfeeding. These rights may also be enforced on the federal level via gender, pregnancy and retaliation claims.
The Federal “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” Law
When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010, breastfeeding mothers gained federal protection in the workplace. This law requires employers to provide reasonable break time for employees to express breast milk for their nursing children for one year after the child’s birth, whenever the employee has a need to express milk. Employers are not required to compensate employees for these breaks. However, if your employer already offers paid breaks and you use these breaks to pump, you should be compensated for your time as usual. Employers must also provide a place (other than a bathroom) that is completely shielded from view where the employee can express milk.
To maintain an ongoing, sufficient supply of milk for your child, you need to pump as often as your baby would otherwise nurse. The law recognizes that the length of time needed to pump and the required frequency will be different for every mother. Employers must provide space and time each time you need it. To determine how much time you need, consider adding the amount of time it takes to gather pumping supplies, get to the pumping area, clean and store your supplies (including refrigeration), and return to your work area.
Breastfeeding at Work
All employers, regardless of the number of employees they employ, must comply with this law. However, if a breastfeeding mother employed by a company with less than fifty employees complains because she is denied accommodations, the employer can apply to the Department of Labor for an undue hardship exemption. To be excused from the requirements of the law, the employer must prove that providing accommodations would cause significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature or structure of the employer’s business. Employers who apply for an exemption must comply with the law unless and until the Department of Labor grants an exemption. The “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law applies to all employees paid on an hourly basis who are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Notwithstanding any conflicting provisions of the law, women are entitled to breastfeed their children in any location in a federal building or on federal property if she and her child are authorized to be present at the location. The same applies to nursing mothers in New Jersey.
Employers Benefit From Allowing Employees to Pump at Work
Several studies have found that supporting lactation at work results in improved productivity, staff loyalty, enhanced public image of the employer, decreased absenteeism, lower healthcare costs and reduced employee turnover.