DoL Wants Input on Break Time for Nursing Mothers

December 23, 2010 ( – The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a Request for Information from the public regarding employers’ requirement to provide reasonable break time for nursing mothers.

The DoL said it is seeking information as it considers how best to help employers and employees understand the requirements of the break time for nursing mothers law. Employers, employees, and other stakeholders have requested additional guidance from the agency about the law’s requirements. 

The break time requirement that is now part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is set forth in Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and requires employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”  

The DoL said it does not plan to issue regulations implementing this provision because it believes that regulations may not be the most useful or effective means for providing initial guidance to employers and employees due to the wide variety of workplace environments, work schedules, and individual factors that will impact the number and length of breaks required by a nursing mother, as well as the manner in which an employer complies with break time requirement. If, however, based on its experience administering and enforcing the break time requirement and the comments received in response to its Request for Information, the Department determines that regulations are necessary, it will initiate rulemaking at that time.  

The Request for Information specifically requests input on the amount of break time that is “reasonable,” considering factors such as the time it takes an employee to retrieve her pump and other supplies; walk to the break space and wait, if necessary, to use the space; and clean up after expressing milk. It also requests specific input on the space for the break, considering the worker’s privacy and the number of nursing mothers employed.  

Comments must be received on or before February 22, 2011.  

The request for information is here.