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Health Care Reform and Nursing Mothers

Did you know that providing break time and a private location for new mothers to express their breast milk is now a requirement under wage and hour law?  For the most part, employers we have worked with in the past have been sensitive to the needs of new mothers upon their return to work.  Now the federal government is mandating employer action in this area. If you have over fifty employees, the additional break time requirement applies to your company.  For those employers with less than fifty employees, the break time requirement applies unless you are able to show it is an undue hardship for your company to provide the additional break time.  For pratical purposes, even small employers (under fifty employees) should assume the requirements will apply to them.

The amendments to the wage and hour laws require employers to provide this additional break time to any employee that is not exempt from overtime.  The additional break time does not need to be compensated time unless the employer provides other employees with compensated break time for other purposes.  This could be problematic for an employer that allows multiple breaks for smoking and/or bathroom visits that are compensable. 

In addition to providing the additional break time, employers are required to make available a private space where employees will not be intruded upon by the public or a co-worker while expressing breast milk.  The rule specifically states that a bathroom is not considered an acceptable location for purposes of complying with the requirement. 

The short translation is that all of your hourly non-exempt employees are covered by this additional requirement to provide time away from their daily work and a private space to facilitate the expressing of breast milk.  While your salary or overtime exempt employees are not covered by the requirement, it probably makes sense to allow those employees access to the private space as well considering the requirement to maintain this private location.  

For more information you can review the DOL Fact Sheet at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs73.pdf

Not only does a working mother have protections under the wage and hour laws, in the state of Kansas a breastfeeding mother has the right to breast feed a child anywhere she has the right to be.  Keep in mind this state law requirement as you evaluate your company's approach to handling new mothers that are nursing their children. 



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Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
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Boyd Byers, the General Employment Law Guy
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Jason Lacey, the Employee Benefits Guy
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