Understanding the New DOL Breastfeeding Break Guidelines

Just yesterday the U.S. Department of Labor released a Fact Sheet explaining the March, 2010 amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act  that requires employers to provide breaks for nursing mothers.  The DOL's guidance is helpful because I have had several clients ask me about this law in recent months.  Some states already had laws like this, but Florida was not one of them.

The law requires employers to provide "reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk."  Employers must provide the breaks "as frequently as needed", and must give the employee a private place, other than a bathroom, to take the breaks.  The breaks need to be of "reasonable" length.  The employer does not have to pay the employee for the break time, unless the employer already provides compensated breaks, and the employee uses one of those breaks to express breast milk.

A couple of interesting points:  (1) the law applies only to non-exempt employees, and not to exempt employees; and, (2) employers with under 50 employees are not subject to the law "if compliance with the provision would impose an undue hardship."

This amendment will probably not lead to much litigation, but employers need to be aware that it is out there. 

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