A mother who is nursing an infant may need to return to work before the baby is weaned. This presents a challenge for her because she will need to express her milk while she’s at work. No workplace has the right to discriminate against a nursing mother, and all employers are expected to comply with laws pertaining to these circumstances.
Nursing mothers are covered by applicable laws until the baby is a year old or until she stops nursing the baby (whichever occurs first). The law requires employers to provide nursing mothers with reasonable time to express milk during their shifts. There isn’t any specific guidance about what “reasonable” entails, although the closer a mother is to her baby’s birth, the longer and more frequently she may need to express. It is possible for an employer to challenge how long or how often the working mother needs to express milk. The employer would have to bear the burden of proof in these cases, so many simply won’t do this.
The employer is also required to provide nursing mothers with a place to express the milk. This must not be in the bathroom and it must be a private space. In addition, nursing mothers shouldn’t be disturbed when handling this task.
Some employers, namely those who have fewer than 50 employees, don’t have to abide by these guidelines if it poses an undue hardship. They must be able to show that providing these unpaid breaks would harm their business, which might not be that easy.
Breastfeeding a baby is a natural event, so working women shouldn’t be made to feel bad about their decision to do this once they return to work — and doing so is discrimination. Any woman who is discriminated against or harassed at work because of the need to express milk should learn more about their legal options and consider consulting an attorney who can help them better understand their rights.