Accommodations for Nursing Mothers

Many employers are facing the growing challenge of accommodating nursing mothers in the workplace.  The State of Wisconsin does not provide any specific provisions regarding accommodations for nursing mothers; however, the provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) offers some protections in this type of situation.

 

In relevant part, Section 7 of the FLSA requires that “employers…provide reasonable break time for a nursing mother employee who is subject to the FLSA’s overtime requirements in order for the employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has a need to express breast milk.  Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from vie and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by the employee to express breast milk.”

 

Other jurisdictions, such as the State of New York, afford nursing mothers additional protections, including an obligation that employers provide reasonable unpaid break time to allow an employee to express milk for her nursing child for up to three years after birth.  New York State employers are also required to make a reasonable effort to provide a room or other location in close proximity to the employee’s work area where she may express milk for her nursing child privately.

 

While these protections are not mandated by Wisconsin law, many employers are implementing policies that mirror the provisions of Section 206-c of the New York State Labor Law by providing nursing mothers with reasonable break times for the purpose of expressing milk for their nursing children and, when possible, providing a private space for the employee to do so.  The space provided by the employer should be a sanitary space other than a restroom with a chair and a flat surface for the employee to use for their breast pump.  Other accommodations for nursing mothers include ensuring that the private space provided to nursing mothers includes access to an electrical outlet and a refrigerator for storing milk.

 

By implementing more inclusive policies regarding the accommodation of nursing mothers in the workplace, employers are able to encourage employees to return from maternity leave more quickly and promote employee satisfaction in the workplace.  Even under circumstances in which a specific policy regarding accommodations for nursing mothers would be inappropriate, it is important for employers to engage in dialogue with their employees regarding the issues associated with nursing mothers.

Karla Halveson