Friday, May 7, 2010

Health reform mandates reasonable break time for nursing mothers

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) signed into law on March 23, 2010, amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require employers to provide unpaid break time for nursing mothers to express breast milk.

Section 4207, known as “Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers”, is effective immediately and requires that employers provide reasonable break time whenever a nursing mother has a need to express milk for one year following a child’s birth. This provision applies to all employers covered by the FLSA.

Guidance has not yet been released as to the definition of “reasonable break time” or set limits on the number of breaks per day; however, the provision is modeled after Oregon’s current state law which allows nursing mothers 30 minutes of break time for every four hours worked.

Other requirements of the provision include:
• Employers with less that 50 employees may be exempt from this law if the requirements impose an “undue hardship” on their business by causing significant expense or difficulty to comply
• Employers must provide a location which is shielded from view and free from intrusion for mothers to express milk, other than a bathroom
• Employers must follow their state law requirements if the state law currently has greater protections for nursing mothers than the new federal law

Although this amendment to the FLSA became effective on March 23, 2010, it could be several months before the Department of Labor (DOL) issues further guidance and clarification. Employers should be aware of the break requirements and make a good faith attempt to adhere to the current guidelines.

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