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Nursing mothers can't be denied breaks to pump their breast milk

Missouri moms know that it can be a real juggling act trying to hold down a job and manage childcare. The problems are intensified when mothers have to work but are still nursing their infants.

However, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amended a section of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and now employers are required to provide "reasonable break times" for nursing mothers to pump their breast milk for their babies up until their first birthdays if they choose. They are permitted these breaks every time the milk needs to be expressed.

Companies must also provide an area for this purpose that is not a bathroom, is protected from the view of others and is free of intrusion from customers, coworkers and the public.

Because this is a federally mandated requirement, it doesn't preempt any state laws or company policies that give further protections such as an extended period beyond a year or compensated break time for working mothers.

While the designated area does not have to be solely dedicated to this purpose, it must be available whenever it is needed for the use of the breastfeeding mother. Employers may temporarily create or repurpose a space as long as it meets or exceeds federal requirements.

Companies that employ fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from these FLSA requirements if complying would impose an undue hardship on the company. This can be determined by examining the cost and difficulty of complying when compared to the company's resources, size, business type and structure. When considering the number of employees, all must be counted.

While companies do not have to compensate nursing moms for the breaks they take to express their milk, if compensated breaks are provided and the mothers use their breaks for this purpose, they must also be compensated just as the other employers are. Additionally, the nursing mothers shall be totally free of all job duties during these breaks or their time must be compensated.

If you are a nursing mother working for an employer that falls under these guidelines and you are denied these legal rights or retaliated against for requesting this break time, you may want to consult with a Missouri employment law attorney.

Source: Department of Labor, "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" Dec. 10, 2014

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