Workplace Rights for Nursing Mothers
Protections for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers
Workers have many protections under federal and state labor laws. These include rights and protections that are specifically aimed at pregnant and nursing mothers. If your employer violated these rights and protections, you may have a claim against your employer to vindicate your rights and to bring your employer to justice. If you think your rights as an employee — any of your rights — have been violated, then we encourage you to seek the advice and counsel of employee rights attorneys like the ones here at Herrmann Law.
With respect to pregnant workers and nursing mothers, most labor laws require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations. For example, new laws in Minnesota have gone into effect with respect to lactation breaks and other accommodations for pregnant workers. With respect to lactation, the new law in Minnesota requires employers to provide “reasonable” break times each day for employees who need to express breast milk for an infant child. Further, under the new law in Minnesota, the time needed for expressing milk is PAID time. That is, employers cannot reduce wages or other compensation for time used for expressing milk. In addition, reasonable breaks for lactation must be provided for an entire year — twelve months — after an infant is born. The new laws apply to ANY employer with fifteen or more employees and apply to any worker, whether part-time or full-time.
In addition to reasonable break times, many state and federal labor laws require that space be provided by the employer for mothers needing to express milk. For example, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, reasonable break times must be provided, and “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public” must be provided for use by an employee to express breast milk. However, unlike the new Minnesota law, under federal labor laws, an employer does not have to pay for the time needed for lactation.
Violation of these worker protections can be the basis for a direct claim of labor law violations and/or can be deemed a violation of anti-discrimination laws. For example, most states forbid any sort of discrimination against workers who are pregnant. Refusing to allow reasonable breaks for lactation has been held to constitute unlawful discrimination. Thus, as noted above, employers who violate these rights can be brought to justice.
Some states — like Texas — do not have a specific law on lactation requirements. Rather, those states rely on the requirements set forth in federal law.
That being said, some states — like Texas — provide incentives for employers to offer lactation accommodations. Texas allows businesses to publicly claim that they are “mother-friendly” in promotional materials if the business has a workplace policy that includes the following:
- Schedule flexibility for lactating workers, including scheduling breaks and work patterns to provide time for the expression of milk
- Provision of accessible locations allowing privacy
- Access nearby to a clean, safe water source and a sink for washing hands and rinsing out and needed breast-pumping equipment
- Access to hygienic storage alternatives in the workplace for the mother’s breast milk
Call the Employee Rights Attorneys at Herrmann Law Today
For more information, call the Employee Rights attorneys at Herrmann Law. If you think that your employer has violated your rights as an employee, call us. We are proven, experienced, employee-focused attorneys representing workers across the United States in all types of workplace disputes. Use our Online Contact page or call us at (817) 479-9229. We are more than just a law firm for employees – we are an employee’s fiercest advocate, equipping employees with the legal representation needed to achieve the best result possible.