What rights do nursing mothers have at work?

Many new mothers must return to work to ensure their family is financially supported. In most cases, nursing moms receive certain protections at work, and the law requires most employers to provide them.

While it is up to employers to remain compliant with the law, workers should also understand their rights. Here are a few things to consider if you are a new mom just returning to work.

What must employers provide nursing moms in the workplace?

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), qualifying employers must provide time for nursing mothers to express milk during their work shifts. Employers must also provide a private place that is not a bathroom for the worker to do so. The area must be clean and protected from others, both staff and customers. The nursing mom must also have access to a chair and flat surface to ensure they can express breast milk comfortably.

Are employees compensated for nursing breaks?

Employers do not need to compensate workers during work breaks unless certain conditions apply. For instance, if your employer offers paid breaks to all staff, then you must receive compensation for your nursing breaks.

When should I discuss this issue with my employer?

It is best to bring up the subject early, preferably during your maternity leave. Make sure your employer is aware of the law and their obligation. They can find many resources online and within FLSA materials that stipulate what they must offer workers in terms of breaks. In most cases, employers want to treat their staff fairly and remain compliant with pertinent laws.

If your employer refuses to accommodate you, discuss the matter with your human resources department or supervisor. You can also contact the U.S. Department of Labor to discuss filing a complaint if the matter does not get resolved.