Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Pumping up workplace lactation rights

The U.S. Department of Labor has reached a settlement with Labcorp over allegations that it failed to provide lactating employees a space for them to express milk privately without fear of intrusion.

The investigation stemmed from an allegation of one employee in the company's Lynwood, California, location. DOL investigators determined that when the employee asked for a private place to express her breast milk, supervisors offered a common space that resulted in her being interrupted twice. As result, and per its settlement with the DOL, Labcorp has agreed, for all of its 2,000-plus locations nationwide, to "provide a private space as required with a notification on the door to guarantee an intrusion-free space."

The FLSA requires that employers do the following regarding lactation breaks:
  • Employers must provide a reasonable break time for a non-exempt lactating 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 milk. 
  • While this law only applies to non-exempt employees, employers should provide the same benefit to exempt employees to avoid the risk of sex discrimination claim.
  • The frequency and duration of each break varies from employee to employee, and employers must provide breaks as frequently as needed by the nursing mom.
  • Employers must provide a private space, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, for an employee to use to express breast milk.
  • If the space is not dedicated to the nursing mother's use, it must be available when needed. A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space is shielded from view, and is free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public.
  • Employers with less than 50 employees are not subject to this break-time requirement if compliance would impose an undue hardship.
  • Lactation breaks can be unpaid as long as other similar breaks provided by the employer are also unpaid. Where employers provide paid breaks, however, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time.

Or, to put it another way, and quoting Wage and Hour Division District Director Richard Blaylock, "Employers who fail to provide designated space as the law requires are creating a barrier for women willing and ready to return to the workforce." Don't make Labcorp's mistake.