Although it has not received much attention, part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care reform bill signed into law by President Obama on March 23, contains an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (”FLSA”) that requires employers to provide nursing mothers unpaid break time to express milk.
Under this amendment to section 7 of the FLSA, employers are now required to provide “a reasonable break time” for an employee to express breast milk for a nursing child ”each time such employee has need to express the milk.” The amendment also requires provision of a “place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion” in which to take these breaks. These breaks are mandated for up to a year following the birth of a child and do not need to be compensated by the employer.
All employers will be required to comply with these new break requirements, except those who employ less than 50 employees if compliance for these employers would “impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature or structure of the employee’s business.” The amendment also makes clear that it does not preempt more protective state laws. The Department of Labor has not yet issued any guidance concerning this new amendment.