New Law on Breastfeeding Breaks for Nursing Mothers May Pose Unique Issues for Healthcare Employers

Compliance with the FLSA amendment contained in the recent Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires employers subject to the FLSA to provide rest breaks and space for employees who are nursing mothers to express breast milk, may pose additional challenges for healthcare employers, especially those that are unionized.  Under the new law, for up to one year after an employee gives birth, covered employers must provide break time and a space for expressing breast milk. The space must be shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, and cannot be a bathroom.

On the one hand, health care providers frequently have private spaces readily available that could be used by nursing mothers.  On the other hand, rest breaks are already often difficult to schedule and maintain for employees in nursing and other critical care positions.  Yet the new law provides no definition as to the length or frequency of lactation breaks.  

In addition, because rest breaks are a key term of employment, healthcare employers with unionized workforces may be required to bargain with their unions over implementation of the new breaks, particularly to the extent the new break requirement affects existing break schedules for represented employees.   For further information, please review Littler’s recent ASAP on the subject, FLSA Amended to Require Breaks and Space to Express Breast Milk for Nursing Mothers.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.