New Fair Labor Standards Act rule helps nursing moms

In March 2010, a new rule under the Fair Labor Standards Act took effect that required employers to provide nursing mothers sufficient breaks to pump breast milk and clean, private areas to do so during the first year of a newborn’s life. The rule is a federal rule and many states have their own unique state laws on the issue. Despite the new labor law, many workplaces have failed to implement the new federal policy.

According to a national survey, only 44 percent of surveyed employees said they had a clean, private area to pump breast milk while at work. In addition, around 36 percent of surveyed workers said they did not have a sufficient number of breaks at work to pump needed breast milk. Some of the issues regarding the implementation of the law are explained by the number of employers who have to follow the new law and the number of mothers who are aware of the new regulation.

To begin, the new federal law only applies to an organization with more than 50 employees and employers with less than 50 employees are not required to grant break times to pump break milk or provide private areas for the activity if providing the time and space would create “an undue hardship” on the employer. The phrase is open to interpretation and can provide wiggle-room for employers.

Also, the new law only applies to hourly employees. Finally, many mothers are not aware of the new law. According to the same national survey from above, only 57 percent of surveyed employees were aware of the new regulation. Next time, we will look at some individual experiences of mothers who need to pump breast milk at work.

Source: ABC News, “Nursing moms: When employers make it hard to pump,” Michelle Goodman, 5/10/11

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