- A Texas counseling company has agreed, in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), to pay $22,000 in back wages and damages to a nursing mother who quit after being forced to express breast milk in a parking lot accessible to other employees and the public.
- Because the employee was denied adequate time and space to pump, DOL deemed her resignation a constructive discharge under the anti-retaliation provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
- Betty Campbell, a DOL Wage and Hour Division regional administrator, said in a press release that "forcing a nursing mother to express milk in a restroom or in public is against the law."
Lawsuits relating to breastfeeding are becoming increasingly common as the federal mandate nears 10 years on the books. Last month, an Arizona jury awarded $3.8 million to a paramedic who was told her pumping schedule was "excessive," and that it seemed she was not fit for duty because of it.
The FLSA requires that employers provide nursing mothers a place to express breast milk — other than a bathroom — that is private and free from intrusions. Employers are also required to provide reasonable break time for this purpose, for up to one year after the baby's birth. These breaks need not be paid unless an employee uses paid break time to pump. Many states have their own additional laws relating to breastfeeding.
While federal law does not require employers to provide lactation breaks and spaces for exempt employees, many employers provide them as a best practice. Some go even farther: Goldman Sachs, for example, pays for moms to ship breast milk back home when they travel for work.
This particular perk may be out of reach for some employers, but it may still be worthwhile to accommodate breastfeeding mothers: Nearly half of pregnant workers have considered a job or career change in favor of a more breastfeeding-friendly workplace, according to a recent survey. And employees who have a bad experience relating to breastfeeding at work may leave, sue or both.
It doesn't take much to set up a dedicated lactation room. Jenna Heisterkamp, director of operations at DayOne Baby, previously told HR Dive she recommends providing a comfortable chair, a door with a lock, an outlet and a table that can accommodate a pump and a laptop. Freestanding lactation pods are another option for workplaces short on space.
Amenities are great, but what's even more important is an open, supportive environment. A good manager who has been educated about breastfeeding is key, according to Jessica Shortall, author of Work. Pump. Repeat.