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Is my employer obligated to provide nursing breaks?

New mothers in Santa Barbara probably have a lot of questions as they return to the work force. For instance, what are the rules regarding nursing breaks in the workplace? The United States Department of Labor strives to answer these questions, so you can be fully aware of your rights, as well as your employer's responsibilities.

Are there laws governing nursing breaks at work?

The Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) stipulates that nursing mothers must be allotted breaks to express breast milk for their newborns. These breaks must be made available for up to one year after the mother gives birth. While nursing breaks don’t necessarily need to paid, the same laws apply to any other breaks. That means if a worker uses a paid break to express milk she must be compensated.  

Who is covered by these laws?

Any employer covered by the FLSA must provide nursing breaks, which usually includes businesses with more than 50 full-time employees. Even if a business is considered exempt they may need to comply with state regulations, which can vary from location to location. Despite their status, all workplaces are encouraged to provide the proper break time and resources to nursing mothers as needed.

What is my employer obligated to provide?

If your workplace is covered by FLSA regulations, your employer must provide ample time for nursing breaks as well as a clean, private area that is not a restroom. In terms of the time afforded, this usually depends on the nursing mother and her needs. Regarding the area where the nursing breaks will take place, it should be sanitary and free from intrusion from both employees as well as the general public. Employers are not obligated to have an area for nursing breaks if they don’t currently have any nursing mothers on staff. Additionally, the area need not be a permanent fixture in the workplace (i.e. a temporary nursing station is fine provided it meets the above requirements).

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