From the desk of Lisa Mathess, M.A., SHRM-CP, Principal Consultant, ADA Specialist
Although not disability related, more and more JAN staff members are fielding questions about a woman's right to breastfeed in the workplace. With August being National Breastfeeding Month, now is a good time to address this issue.
The main question we get is whether employers have to provide accommodations for nursing mothers. JAN specializes in the ADA, which requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities. To be entitled to accommodations under the ADA, a person has to meet the ADA definition of disability. The desire or need to nurse a baby does not meet this definition, so the ADA does not address breastfeeding in the workplace.
Even though the ADA does not apply to nursing mothers, other laws may require employers to accommodate nursing mothers. For example, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide "reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk." Employers are also required to provide "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk."
In addition, employees seeking accommodations related to breastfeeding may be protected under state laws. Even though there is no legal requirement under the ADA to accommodate nursing mothers in the workplace, JAN is always happy to provide accommodation ideas. Some ideas for nursing mothers include:
- Scheduling periodic rest breaks away from the workstation
- Providing a private area for breaks
- Allowing work from home
- Allowing a flexible work schedule