Human resources questions: federal laws regarding nursing mothers in the workplace

May 19, 2011
Tim Twigg and Rebecca Crane from Bent Ericksen & Associates discuss the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the laws employers must follow regarding nursing mothers in the workplace.

Question: I was informed that there is a new federal law that requires me to provide nursing mothers with a work location and the time to pump milk. Given how small my practice is, this seems totally unrealistic. Please tell me this isn't true.

Answer: I wish I could. The new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requires all employers to provide "reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time the employee has need to express the milk."

This is an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and is a way to support breastfeeding and the documented health benefits for the baby. Given the high percentage of female employees in dentistry, it is important to know the requirements.

The only exception is employers who have fewer than 50 employees and can show that complying would impose an "undue hardship" on the business. Therein is the challenge for small employers such as you. The referenced private location is a challenge for most of our clients, but it can only be avoided if you can justify the hardship with complying.

The provision requires that employers provide "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk." The FLSA does not mandate compensation for the time, but it is essential for you to check to ensure that your rest and meal break policies are consistent with any applicable state regulations.

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The opinions expressed above are based on the writer’s comprehensive background as a human resources professional and the policies in our Bent Ericksen & Associates products having been reviewed by legal counsel. The writer is not an attorney, and the advice provided in this message should not be construed as a legal opinion. If you have legal questions after considering the advice and reading any materials referenced, it is recommended that you consult with your attorney.

Author bio
Tim Twigg is the president of Bent Ericksen & Associates, and Rebecca Crane is a human resource compliance consultant with Bent Ericksen & Associates. For 30 years, the company has been a leading authority in human resource and personnel issues, helping dentists deal successfully with the ever-changing and complex labor laws. To receive a complimentary copy of the company’s quarterly newsletter or to learn more about its services, call (800) 679-2760 or visit