Over the last decade, we’ve made great strides to bring attention to and support breastfeeding moms returning to work. Breastfeeding advocates have worked hard to make the public aware of all of the benefits that come with feeding breast milk to our babies. This awareness also brought to light all of the challenges that breastfeeding moms face when they go back to work.
If you are working away from home and still plan to breastfeed, you have rights that protect you. Laws vary in each state but there are some that protect you at the federal level.
The biggest advancement for breastfeeding employees was the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law. President Obama signed this into law in 2010 to help working mothers who need to express milk for one year after their child is born. Most hourly and salaried employees are protected under the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law. You can see if you are covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Under the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law, certain employers are required to provide:
- Adequate break time each time you need to pump.
- A private space to pump that IS NOT a bathroom.
Employers are not required to provide a permanent space for you to pump. The space needs to be available to you when you need it, but it doesn’t need to be dedicated just for you to pump. They do have to provide reasonable break time, but it isn’t a requirement for you to be paid unless you already have paid breaks.
If you’re not covered under FLSA, there may be state laws that protect your right to pump at work.
Although all fifty states have laws that protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in public, some states still lack protections in the workplace. There are thirty-two states that specifically have laws for breastfeeding at work.
Here are the states that do not offer protections beyond the federal level:
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
That means that employers in the above states don’t have to offer anything more than what is outlined in the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law.
The remaining states that have written their own laws vary on the extra requirements and protections that have been put into place for pumping moms. It’s best to check with the legislation for your state to see exactly what the situation is where you live.
These states have laws written about breastfeeding rights at work:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
The U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau has an interactive map where you can click on your state to see laws in place related to protections for pregnant and breastfeeding employees.
Have you talked to your employer about pumping when you return to work? Our Moms At Work program partners with companies to help them provide a breastfeeding-friendly environment for their employees. Reach out to us here to see how we can support your breastfeeding journey at work.