Nursing Mothers’ Law: Does Your Employer Have to Let You Pump at Work?

Nursing Mothers’ Law: Does Your Employer Have to Let You Pump at Work?

If you’re like many working moms, you know how important pumping breastmilk at work can be. At best, it’s painful – and at worst, it can disrupt your child’s entire eating regimen. But is there a nursing mothers’ law that requires your employer to let you pump at work? Here’s what you need to know.

Nursing Mothers’ Law: Does Your Employer Have to Let You Pump at Work?

A federal law – the Fair Labor Standards Act – requires your employer to provide you with reasonable time to express breast milk for your nursing child for a year after the child’s birth. Your employer is also required to provide a place for you to do so, and that place can’t be a bathroom, it must be shielded from view so you have privacy, and it must also be free from intrusion from coworkers and the public so nobody walks in on you while you’re pumping.

The state of California also has nursing mothers’ laws on the books protecting breastfeeding mothers, including:

  • California Government Code § 12920-12923 and § 12926 make it unlawful to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers in employment.
  • California Labor Code says employers must allow you breaks and provide a room for you when you wish to express milk in private, and the employer must make reasonable efforts to provide you with the use of a room other than a bathroom, and that the room (other than a bathroom) have a sink and refrigerator close to your workspace.

Who is Entitled to Protection Under the Federal Nursing Mothers’ Law?

Employees who work for employers covered under FLSA and are not except from FLSA’s overtime pay requirements are entitled to breaks to express milk. 

All employers covered by FLSA must comply with the nursing mothers’ law. The only exceptions are employers that have fewer than 50 employees and can demonstrate that complying with the law would cause them an undue hardship.

Related: Pregnancy discrimination laws in California

Does Break Time to Express Milk Have to Be Paid Time?

Employers are not required under FLSA to pay you for breaks you take to express milk. However, if an employer already provides compensated breaks, you can use your break time to express milk and be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time. 

Do Nursing Spaces Have to Be Permanent Under the Nursing Mothers’ Law?

The space your employer provides you with to express milk doesn’t have to be permanent. It can be temporarily created or converted, or made available when necessary. As long as it’s functional as a space for expressing milk, it’s okay under the law. However, if the whole space isn’t dedicated to the nursing mothers use, it must be available when needed – and that means your employer can’t tell you, “Not now. We’re using the space.”

Does an Employer Have to Provide a Special Place for Expressing Milk if It Doesn’t Employ Nursing Mothers?

Employers don’t have to have dedicated places for expressing milk unless they employ nursing mothers who need the space.

Can an Employer Tell You to Use a Bathroom if No Other Space is Available?

Your employer certainly cannot require you to use a bathroom, even if it’s the only place available at a work site. The law specifically says a place other than a bathroom. However, if you choose to use a bathroom, that’s okay – that’s your decision.

What Should You Do if Your Employer Doesn’t Comply With the Nursing Mothers’ Law?

You can approach your company’s human resources department and ensure that your employer understands you need a dedicated space and breaks to express milk. If your employer refuses to accommodate you, you should call an attorney to find out whether you have grounds for a formal complaint. You can call our office at 818-230-8380 or fill out the form below to tell us about your situation in a free consultation – we’ll help you decide what to do next.


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