JAN Consultants handle a wide-range of employment inquiries from people all over the country. Every week there are issues that trend for one reason or another. For example, this week we fielded several inquiries from employers about accommodating nursing mothers. Employers asked what obligation they have to provide accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for mothers who either need breaks or a private space to express milk or nurse. What requirement is there under the ADA to provide accommodations for nursing mothers?
Under the ADA, a qualified person with a disability is someone who has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces the ADA, lactation is a pregnancy-related condition but uncomplicated pregnancy and lactation are not disabilities covered by the ADA. Thus, an employer would not be required to provide accommodations for mothers who are nursing as a requirement under that statute.
However, in March of 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148, “Affordable Care Act”) amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require covered employers to provide accommodations to nursing mothers under that law. The amendment requires employers to provide such accommodations as breaks and a private place, not a restroom, to express milk during the workday. In addition to this federal mandate, there are many state laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. Federal requirements do not preempt a state law that provides greater protections to employees and so employers should become familiar with any state requirements.
The National Council of State Legislatures offers information regarding state breastfeeding laws. Also, the U.S. Department of Labor offers information about the accommodation requirements imposed on employers by section 7 of the FLSA. The following resources are available:
- Break Time for Nursing Mothers, U.S. Department of Labor
- Fact Sheet on Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA, U.S. Department of Labor
- Frequently Asked Questions – Break Time for Nursing Mothers, U.S. Department of Labor
JAN’s Lactation page offers information about accommodation ideas for nursing mothers.
Contact the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage & Hour Division, for FLSA technical assistance at 866-487-9243 or 877-889-5627 (TTY).