Pumping at Work- Legal Rights

Workplaces don’t make “accommodations” for breastfeeding mothers… It is our RIGHT to get time and space to pump. It’s a biological/medical necessity! Yet even with this mindset, it can be daunting communicating your needs to your employer So how do you do this confidently?

  • Research the law for your state/country (See below!).
  • Read your employee handbook and see if there is a section regarding pumping breaks.
  • See if there is already a designated space for pumping
  • In person (if possible) or via email, politely and confidently state how many times you will need to pump in the workday, how you envision this fitting into your schedule, and where you intend to pump. If you don’t know this info, ask for their help finding a suitable space (private, and not a bathroom)
  • Avoid the word “just” and phrases like “if that’s ok” as this sounds passive and you want to be confident, momma!
  • IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG with this interaction, do not be afraid to meet with your Human Resources department to communicate your rights!!!

Your Right to Pump

You’ve gotta fight… for your right… to puuuuummmmpppp! *Beastie Boys music begins playing*

In all seriousness, though, momma… Here are your federally granted rights:

From the U.S. Department of Labor- Wage and Hour Division: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148, known as the “Affordable Care Act”) amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to require employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one 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.” Fact Sheet 

* Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to this FLSA break time requirement (Which is BS if you ask me, and that’s my professional opinion!)

Images above: One of the best resources on Instagram: @Right2Pump

Space to Pump:

“A bathroom, even if private, is not a permissible location under the Act. The location provided must be functional as a space for expressing breast milk. If the space is not dedicated to the nursing mother’s use, it must be available when needed in order to meet the statutory requirement. A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space is shielded from view, and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public.” ~U.S. Department of Labor

Time to Pump:

Unfortunately pumping time doesn’t need to be on the clock. “Employers are not required under the FLSA to compensate nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk. However, where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time. In addition, the FLSA’s general requirement that the employee must be completely relieved from duty or else the time must be compensated as work time applies. See WHD Fact Sheet #22, Hours Worked under the FLSA .” ~U.S. Department of Labor

Work-Arounds:

Some women find it nearly impossible to take pump breaks at work. Many women who work 12-hr shifts opt for a wearable pump like the Elvie, Willow, or Freemie. Many of these are discrete and very quiet. Some women with desk jobs manage to continue working while they pump. Are these “work-arounds” ideal? No.. but we make it work at work.

Need to complain? You will be protected from retaliation:

Section 15(a)(3) of the FLSA states that it is a violation for any person to “discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this Act, or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding, or has served or is about to serve on an industry committee.” Employees are protected regardless of whether the complaint is made orally or in writing. Complaints made to the Wage and Hour Division are protected, and most courts have ruled that internal complaints to an employer are also protected. Any employee who is “discharged or in any other manner discriminated against” because, for instance, he or she has filed a complaint or cooperated in an investigation, may file a retaliation complaint with the Wage and Hour Division or may file a private cause of action seeking appropriate remedies including, but not limited to, employment, reinstatement, lost wages and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.” ~U.S. Department of Labor

Legal Resources: