Detroit creates lactation stations following DOL investigation
- Detroit has agreed to create five lactation stations for nursing employees following a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) investigation, the agency announced. The city also agreed to change its break policy.
- DOL said that the Motor City was not in compliance with the "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Wage and Hour investigators found that a city transportation employee was unable to travel to the designated lactation station, pump and store milk, clean-up and return to work in the 30 minutes allowed by the city.
- Investigators also found that the city had failed to post FLSA posters containing information on the nursing mother provision at the transportation worksite visited. DOL did not announce any fines or lawsuits associated with the findings; instead, it encouraged employers to reach out to ensure they understand their responsibilities.
The Affordable Care Act added the break time requirement for nursing mothers to the FLSA in 2010. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to the requirement if compliance would impose an undue hardship.
Generally, employers are required to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for a nursing child for one year after the child's birth. Employees must be able to use a place other than a bathroom that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public. Employers are not required to compensate nursing mothers for such breaks. Employers should note that some state laws have more generous protections, too.
While one study, conducted about five years after the requirement took effect, found fewer than half of eligible mothers had access to the required break time and space, some employers have embraced the mandate. 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 keycard access limited to mothers only.
Experts say employers should view such efforts as an opportunity to improve engagement and retention. If a new mom struggles to keep up her milk supply because her employer won't provide a space for her to express milk or her colleagues roll their eyes because she steps away from her desk every couple hours to pump, a low unemployment rate means she can defect to a new job pretty quickly.
- HR Dive Working on engagement and retention? Don't leave nursing mothers behind
- U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet No. 73: Break time for mothers under the FLSA