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Are employers required to provide lactation breaks? If so, what are the requirements?

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide unpaid, reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for a year after the child’s birth. The frequency of breaks needed to express milk as well as the duration of each break will likely vary. Additionally, although employers are not required under the FLSA to compensate nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk, where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time. The FLSA’s general requirement that the employee must be completely relieved from duty or else the time must be compensated as work time also applies.

Employers are not required to create a permanent, dedicated space for use by nursing mothers. However, employers are required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk. A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space follows these guidelines. The location provided must be functional as a space for expressing breast milk. If the space is not dedicated to the nursing mothers’ use, it must be available when needed in order to meet the statutory requirement. Of course, employers may choose to create permanent, dedicated space if they determine that is best to meet their obligations under the law.