Today, I tip my hat to you, working mamas that pump. I know, first hand, it isn’t easy, and I also know that getting many times pumping mamas are not getting what they are entitled to in the workplace and they don’t know that they deserve more and they deserve better.
Let’s put it this way, the U.S. government has recognized that nursing your baby is so important that they have put laws into effect that not only cover your right to pump but also lay out guidelines for your employer about where and when you can pump, too.
First things first, almost every business in the United States is covered by the FLSA. Unless you are working for a company that has less than 50 employees or makes less than $500,000 dollars a year AND does not engage in interstate commerce, you are likely to be covered. The Department of Labor outlines exactly who is covered and what is expected. The two major laws that we are looking at here to understand what you are entitled to as a nursing mother in the workplace are the Patient Privacy and Affordable Care Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act (United States Department of Labor, 2016).
4 things you need to remember that you are entitled to when pumping at the workplace:
- You can pump as many times as necessary for a full year after your baby is born. This means that you get to determine how many times a day you need to pump, not your employer. Now this is all within reason, but if for some reason you need to pump more then you were the previous week, etc. this is a conversation that is within your rights to have. The break time needs to be made available to you whenever “it is necessary to express milk”. You don’t have to be a bitch about it, but if you have to be – it’s within your rights. They cannot tell you that you can only do it during your lunch break or scheduled break times. However, they do not have to pay you for the time you take to pump – they, simply, must allow you to take the time.
- You must be given a reasonable amount of break time to express each time. We aren’t talking 5 minutes here. If your employer gives you an amount of time, let’s say 10 minutes, but you feel that it will take you longer. You are able to ask for the 15-20 minutes you need. Most employers are going to be willing to negotiate with you about what is reasonable for you.
- You do not have to pump in a bathroom. Your employer is required by law to provide you a clean and safe place to pump that is not a bathroom. It also needs to be a place that is private where traffic is not passing through. The only people that should be in that space with you, while you are expressing, is any other woman that is also expressing. If that’s something you are uncomfortable with – talk to the others that are expressing and try to set up a schedule, or your employer may be willing to provide a screen for a little more privacy. Another thing that your employer may offer you is an office and that is acceptable under the law, as long you have privacy and it is available whenever you need it.
- Your state might entitle you to more! Some states go even further and get more specific for you. Check your state laws here.
I hope that this helps you with all your questions about breastfeeding when you return to work. And, girl, if you have returned to work and your employer isn’t meeting these basic requirements: Speak up! If not for you, think about the other mamas that want to pump so they can continue breastfeeding.