Health Care Reform and Breast Pumps in the Workplace

October 19, 2010, 2:43 PM

Buried in the voluminous pages of the health care bill is an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that requires employers to take reasonable steps to support women who need to use breast pumps at work. All employers are required to provide such employees with a clean, private location in which to pump. These locations must have a door with a lock and an electrical outlet, but do not need to be used exclusively for pumping. Employers must provide their employees with unpaid breaks, as necessary, to pump. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may avoid compliance if they can show that providing such a location would cause a hardship for them.

The new FLSA language is very brief and, thus far, employers have little guidance on what these changes will mean in practice. Employers who have employees needing to pump should work collaboratively with the employee, the relevant supervisor, and human resources professionals to keep an open dialogue about the employee's needs; to designate a suitable space for the employee's use; and to reasonably schedule the employee's breaks. --Anna Richardson Smith