Do Nursing Mothers Get Mandatory Breaks?

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Denis ZilberbergJune 22, 2017Wage & Hour Law

Wage & hour laws in California relate to a number of different topics, from overtime pay to how many hours can be worked in a given pay period. Wage & hour laws also include language regarding mandatory breaks for nursing mothers, which must be afforded by employers to ensure they remain compliant with the law.

As stated by the United States Department of Labor, any employer covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must provide breaks for nursing mothers for up to one year after the birth of their children. Even if an employer is exempt from the FLSA, most states have similar laws in place decreeing that nursing mothers should be provided a private area (that is not a bathroom) to express milk as needed.

While there is no direct language that says a nursing break must be paid, employers are obligated to provide paid breaks under the FLSA. Accordingly, nursing breaks should be treated as any other break would when it comes to compensation. The length of breaks is typically dependent on the total hours worked, although with nursing breaks length and frequency can vary based on need.

In terms of the area where nursing mothers can express milk, employers must provide an area hidden from the view of the public as well as other workers. The area does not need to be permanent; employers are free to convert an area used for another purpose provided it meets the above criteria. It also must be available when the nursing mother sees fit at any time during the course of work. Under no circumstances can the area be a bathroom, even when there is limited space within a place of work.


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