- Bank of America (BofA) has agreed to make workplace changes after the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigated and alleged the bank failed to provide reasonable break time and a space free from intrusion for a nursing mother to express breast milk at a Tucson, Arizona, location. DOL said the bank will implement "defined steps to accommodate the reasonable break time for nursing mothers' requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)."
- The agreement applies to all of the bank's locations and the physical changes will take place over several years, beginning with Arizona, DOL said. BofA also agreed to provide training for some of its managers and HR personnel and to provide expecting mothers who intend to take maternity leave with information about its break time policy.
- "Bank of America is committed to supporting all our employees who are parents, including up to 26 weeks off for maternity, paternity, and adoption leave in the U.S., and ensuring all our facilities have appropriate spaces for nursing mothers when they return to the office," a BofA spokesman said in a statement emailed to HR Dive.
The FLSA has required since 2010 that companies provide non-exempt employees a private space, other than a bathroom, where employees can pump breast milk and reasonable break time to do so for one year after a child's birth. The space must be shielded from view and intrusion from co-workers and the public, according to DOL. Employers need not pay a nursing mother for these breaks unless she is using otherwise paid break time. Employers with fewer than 50 employees do not have to comply if meeting the break time requirement imposes an undue hardship.
Experts have recommended that employers go beyond the FLSA's minimum requirements and provide a space that is available only to nursing mothers and that has a comfortable chair, a locking door, an outlet and a table. A lactation break policy also can be helpful, they said.
Notably, the FLSA may not be the only federal law that controls treatment of nursing mothers. Discrimination that stems from pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination for covered employers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Last year, for example, a jury found that a breastfeeding Arizona paramedic was subjected to discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and the related condition of breastfeeding and that she was subjected to retaliation in violation of the law. It awarded her $3.8 million, although the law caps damages at a much lower threshold and the litigation is ongoing.
Employers should also note that state and local laws may apply and provide greater protections for pregnant employees and applicants. Some of the state and local laws enacted after the FLSA's requirements include exempt employees in breastfeeding and pregnancy accommodation requirements, for example.
Some employers have embraced the call to support nursing working mothers. Goldman Sachs, for example, pays for moms to ship breast milk back home when they travel for work. A spokesperson for the Hyatt hotel chain previously told HR Dive in an email that, after obtaining feedback from the company's working mothers, the company installed five "upscale" lactation rooms at its new corporate headquarters in Chicago that include comfortable chairs and table space with Wi-Fi access; fully stocked rooms that include a full sink, microwave, a hospital grade pump, milk storage bags, sanitation bags, wipes and soap and restricted keycard access.