Breastfeeding Employees

Learn more about your workplace rights.
Breastfeeding workers typically need to express milk 2–3 times during an 8-hour workday to maintain their milk production and avoid health complications.  Employees who are breastfeeding also require a private, clean space – that’s not a bathroom – to pump.  If you do not have a private office or control over when you take your breaks, you may need to request an accommodation from your employer to take regular pumping breaks in a clean, private space.
Are Breastfeeding Workers Protected by Law?

If you are a non-exempt employee, your employer is required by the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision of the Affordable Care Act to provide you with reasonable break time to express milk and a space that is not a bathroom where you can express milk in private without anyone intruding on you until your baby is one year old.  If you are an exempt employee, you are not covered by the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law, but you may still be entitled to accommodations under other laws.

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires that employers give nursing employees the same freedom to address lactation-related needs as is given to employees with other medical conditions. For example, if employees are allowed to modify their schedule to attend doctor’s appointments or are given alternative assignments to accommodate temporary illnesses, the same accommodations should be provided to employees with lactation-related needs. Additionally, many states have their own lactation accommodation laws.  To learn more about the workplace protections available to breastfeeding workers in your state, visit the United States Breastfeeding Committee’s guides to state breastfeeding laws.

In California, visit Legal Aid At Work’s breastfeeding resources.

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Talking To Your Boss About Your Pump?

Thinking about the best way to talk to your boss about your need for pumping breaks, private space, or other breastfeeding accommodations?

  • Check out Supporting Nursing Moms At Work: Employer Solutions, an industry-specific guide from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about how to find or create private space in your own working environment.
  • Coming soon! Talking To Your Boss About Your Pump.  State-by-state guidance and practical tips created by WorkLife Law and A Better Balance to help you talk to your employer about the accommodations you need.
Getting Help From Your Health Care Provider Or Lactation Consultant

Getting a note from your care provider may help you get the time and space you need to express milk for your baby.  Unfortunately health care providers and lactation consultants are typically not trained in writing effective work notes for their breastfeeding patients.  Download the guide below to share tips with your provider on how to write an effective work note to increase the likelihood you will receive the accommodation you need.

Have questions?

Contact the Center for WorkLife Law’s free legal hotline. 

This national hotline provides information to employees about their family caregiving responsibilities, including pregnancy, maternity, and parental needs and protections. The hotline also provides the names of lawyers in your state who are willing to be contacted about such matters (if appropriate).

Email hotline@worklifelaw.org or call (415) 703-8276.

You may also contact A Better Balance’s free legal hotline in New York (212-430-5982) or Tennessee (615-915-2417) to speak with an attorney about your situation.