Understanding the New FLSA Breast-Milk Requirements

Understanding the New FLSA Breast-Milk Requirements
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Here’s What is Happening:

The latest development in the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) requires that nursing mothers be given breast-feeding breaks by their

employers to feed their infants at the work site. Here’s more on provisions and the new FLSA breast milk requirements as proposed by this latest amendment.

The New Breast-Milk Requirements as per FLSA

These latest health care reforms make it obligatory for the employer to allow reasonable breast-feeding breaks to nursing mothers with infants not older than one year of age. The two basic breast-milk requirements as put forward by FLSA are:

  1. Allowing reasonably long breast-feeding breaks, during which breast-feeding employees can feed their infants, and
  2. Providing a suitable and isolated location where the employee can feed the infant during the feeding breaks without getting disturbed.

These are the basic two requirements that the employers must adhere to if they employ any nursing mothers. In some cases, an employer who employs less than 50 people can get an exemption from the new FLSA breast-milk requirements, provided he is able to prove that allowing the nursing mothers to feed their infants ‘on-site’ may either not be feasible or is too difficult or expensive to implement.

Implementing the Latest FLSA Breast-feeding Amendment

Although the above mentioned requirements may seem simple, there are a lot of specifications and intricacies related to each of these requirements. Here are some of the important aspects that employers need to understand about FLSA breast-feeding requirements.

  1. Female employees with infants less than a year old can ask for breast-feeding breaks as and when they need them during the course of the workday. While the employer does not have a say in how many times or for how long the mother can breast-feed the infant, the employer has absolute rights regarding whether on not to pay the employee for these break hours. However, if the employer provides the other employees with compensated rest breaks, the same can be used by nursing mothers to express breast milk.
  2. The employer has to provide a secluded and safe place where the mothers can breast-feed their infants without being disturbed by other employees or the public. The place must ensure proper privacy. Bathrooms and restrooms cannot be suggested as breastfeeding areas.
  3. Several states have their own laws concerning breast-feeding during work hours. Wherever such laws exist, the new FLSA breast-milk amendment does not forestall such state laws, which offer more protection or benefits to the nursing mothers than what is proposed in this amendment. Also, since this new FLSA breast-milk requirement is applicable only for non-exempt employees with infants less than one year of age, the state laws will supersede if they provision breast-feeding breaks for FSLA-exempt employees or for an employee whose child is more than one year old.

Although it is commendable that the issue of breast-feeding during work has been addressed, what’s still a problem is that the new regulations do not talk about penalties for noncompliance by the employers.