Remember the provision in the healthcare reform package that called for providing breaks for nursing mothers to express breast milk? The feds have just released the rules you’ll have to follow. Too bad they’re not clearer.
So here’s the deal, straight from the DOL Wage and Hour Division’s Fact Sheet No. 73: “Employers are required to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for for nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.”
OK. Just a couple of questions.
What’s a “reasonable” amount of time?
And how many times a day can an employer expect the nursing mother to be taking these breaks?
The DOL offers this helpful analysis: “The frequency of breaks needed to express milk as well as the duration of each break will likely vary.”
Here’s another puzzler: Only non-exempt workers are entitled to the breaks. What’s the rationale behind that?
Some more highlights of the rules:
- Employers aren’t required to pay employees for the break time. If, however, the company already provides compensated breaks, and the employee uses that time to express milk, she must be paid in the same way as other workers.
- The employer’s got to provide a facility for women to take the breaks. Bathrooms, even if they’re private, can’t be used. Employers can temporarily erect space, or convert an existing space, but it’s got to be private, shielded from view and free from intrusions by co-workers and the public.
- Employers with 50 or fewer employees are exempt from the break time requirement — if compliance with the provision would “impose an undue hardship.” Proving that hardship involves “looking at the difficulty or expense” to the company based on “size, financial resources, nature and structure” of the business, the DOL says.