What Are My Rights for Pumping at Work?

December 19, 2013
What Are My Rights for Pumping at Work?

[Updated May 6, 2017]

More than 65 percent of moms in the U.S. go back to work full or part-time after the birth of their child, 40 percent of whom are the primary source of income for their family. And, many of these moms are still breastfeeding their infants, making pumping at work a necessity.

Luckily, there are laws in place to protect the rights of working moms in the U.S. and provide them with encouragement to continue breastfeeding. If you’re planning to go back to work after your baby arrives, learn what protections you have and talk to your employer about breastfeeding.

Affordable Care Act Protections

The Affordable Care Act includes the following requirements:

  • Your employer must provide reasonable break time for you to pump for one year after your baby’s birth. However, your employer is not required to pay you during these breaks.
  • Your employer must provide a private space, other than a bathroom, for you to pump. This ensures moms have a comfortable and relaxing environment, conducive to breastfeeding success. This room doesn’t need to be reserved only for breastfeeding moms to use – it just needs to be available whenever you need to use it, and also needs to be free from intrusion by coworkers and the public.

Your Workplace or Position May be Exempt

However it may be possible that your employer is exempt, meaning they don’t have to follow these requirements if:

State Laws May Cover You

If you or your company falls into one of these exempt categories, your state may have laws to offer you additional protection. In fact, 28 U.S. states, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico have specific laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. Find current breastfeeding laws in your state.

How to Talk to Your Employer About Pumping At Work

If you do your research and find you are not covered under any of the above protections, consider talking with your employer to work something out. Here’s where to start and what to say:

  • Talk to your coworkers. Fellow moms may have insight into the unique challenges you face, as well as tips for where and when to pump. Ask them how successful they were and if management is supportive.
  • Talk to HR. If your company has an HR department, make sure you ask what types of guidelines or support are in place for breastfeeding mothers.
  • Schedule a meeting with your manager or write an email to discuss your return. Tell them you’ll need to pump at work and ask what resources the company has to support you, including what private pumping spaces are available.

Find more tips for talking with your employer about pumping at work.

How does your employer support your breastfeeding goals? Share in the comments below.

The Affordable Care Act includes the following requirements:

  • Your employer must provide a reasonable break for you to pump for one year after your baby’s birth. However, your employer is not required to compensate you during these breaks.
  • Your employer must provide a private space, other than a bathroom, for you to pump. This ensures moms have a comfortable and relaxing environment, conducive to breastfeeding success. This room doesn’t need to be reserved only for breastfeeding moms to use, but it does need to be available whenever you need it and also needs to be free from intrusion by coworkers and the public.

Unfortunately, your employer may be exempt from these laws if:

  • The company you work for has less than 50 employees and can show that compliance with the provision would cause too much hardship.
  • Your company is not covered by the FLSA

However, if your company falls into one of these exempt categories, your state’s laws may offer you additional protection. In fact, 24 US states have specific laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace.

How does your employer help support your breastfeeding goals?

3 thoughts on “What Are My Rights for Pumping at Work?

  1. I did not know this didn’t apply to salaried workers, or employers with fewer than than 50 employees, both of which apply to my job.

  2. I haves to use the bathroom. The lactation room is across the hospital and always in use. Would take an extra 20 minutes to and from that side.

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