Workplace rights for nursing mothers

| Feb 8, 2021 | Firm News |

New mothers in Michigan no doubt enjoy the time away from work spent with their new babies. That said, the prospect of returning to the workplace, reconnecting with coworkers and resuming one’s job functions may also excite them. There are still, however, some challenges they may encounter following a return from maternity leave (on top of missing their newborns).

Those women who choose to nurse may find themselves needing to express breastmilk while at work. Their employers should understand this and make the appropriate accommodations. Yet what if employees encounter resistance in this regard (or worse yet, feel pressure from their employers to resign due to a perceived lack of commitment to fully returning to the job)?

What does the law mandate?

Such pressure is both unethical and unlawful. Employers owe their employees sympathy when it comes to their health needs (and pumping breastmilk is a health need for nursing mothers). On top of that, federal law mandates their understanding. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers must provide nursing mothers with adequate break time needed in order to express breastmilk while at work. They cannot demand that this time substitute for an employee’s standard break time (they do not, however, have to pay an employee during such a break).

Additional required accommodations

In addition, the law requires that employers provide nursing mothers with a discrete location (hidden away from the view of both the public and fellow employees) in which they can pump. This location must be somewhere other than a bathroom (an empty office or conference room will typically suffice).

One important note for new mothers to remember is that (per the National Conference of State Legislatures) these standards apply only to companies with more than 50 employees. One should make individual arrangements if their employer is a smaller company.