Back to Work & Breastfeeding? Know Your Rights
You may have thought that you’d have to give up breastfeeding when you return to work, but with a breast pump and the law on your side, you can totally do this!
All new mothers have the right to pump breastmilk at work in a clean and safe place. Your company cannot fire you or otherwise discriminate against you because you are a breastfeeding mother.
The Break Time for Nursing Mothers law of 2010 requires that employers provide reasonable breaks to new mothers to pump breast milk for up to one year after a child’s birth. Your employer is also required to provide a place other than the bathroom for you to pump milk.
However, if your company employs fewer than 50 people and can prove that offering breaks or a private space would cause “undue hardship” to the company, they could be exempt. This is determined by looking at the expense or difficulty of compliance for a specific employer in comparison to the size, financial resources, nature, and structure of the business.
Trailblazing the Milk Trail
When you decide to tell your employer you’re pregnant, it’s also a good time to discuss breastfeeding, especially if your company doesn’t already have a policy in place.
Your employer may not be aware of your rights. Though it’s not your responsibility to find a suitable place to pump, it may look favorably on you if you have some suggestions to offer. For example, is there an unused office, storage closet, or a meeting room you can use? The area could be partitioned off by a curtain, folding screen, or temporary wall.
Give Me a Break
The law does not require that your employer pay for your pumping breaks. However, if you already have paid breaks, you can use those to express your milk and your pay isn’t affected. Usually, you can express your milk in about ten minutes.
If your baby is under six months old, you’ll likely need to pump every 2-3 hours. Once she is six months old, you’ll probably be pumping less often because she’ll be eating solid foods too. If you find that you need extra time, your employer may ask that you “punch out,” as that time does not have to be paid for by your employer.
Briefcase and a Pump
Packing the essentials may seem a bit daunting at first. Give yourself time to adjust and it will become routine in no time. The Affordable Care Act mandates that insurance providers cover breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies for all nursing mothers.
You’ll also need a cooler (if you don’t want to use the break room fridge), ice packs, and your choice of a storage container. Date all milk before storing. Store milk in 2-4 ounce amounts to reduce waste. Use BPA–free plastic containers, glass containers, or freezer bags. Once you’re home, place them in the fridge or freezer. Milk can be store in the fridge for up to three days and in the freezer for six months.
Not Feeling the Love?
If you’re struggling with your employer about pumping your milk, contact your local EEOC counselor in your region.
Are you planning to pump milk at the office? What are your employer’s policies?