Workplace Breastfeeding Laws



Are you familiar with the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law? In 2010 the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) amended the FLSA to include this federal law. This law covers non-exempt (hourly) employees covered by the FLSA. What many people do not realize, is that even if ACA is repealed in the future 28 states have their own breastfeeding laws that are similar or more comprehensive than the federal law!

The federal law mandates that employers shall provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breastmilk in a place other than a bathroom until the baby is a year old. That place must be private and free from intrusion. Employers are not required to compensate for pumping breaks, although if the employer already provides paid breaks and the employee uses them for pumping, the employee should be paid as usual. Small business with less than 50 employees also need to comply unless the requirements of the law causes the employer “significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.” Thus far, no companies have been granted this exception, and most choose to comply to retain and support their working mothers regardless of the law.

If the state law provides greater protection to the employee than the federal law, then the state law prevails over the federal law. The Healthy Horizons map below shows 28 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico that have laws related to breastfeeding. Of this list, 23 of these states (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia), Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C. have breastfeeding workplace laws that give greater protections than the federal law. Other states (New Hampshire, North Dakota, Texas, Washington, Wyoming) have breastfeeding laws that implement an advisory council or allow businesses to designate themselves as “infant-friendly” or “mother-friendly” if they provide breaks and a place to pump.


The laws in states that offer greater protections typically cover all employees in the state, not just non-exempt/hourly workers, although in a few it only applies to civil servants and public school employees. The laws in these states may also have more specific requirements regarding breaks used to pump milk. They may give additional requirements on pumping accommodations, such as how close the room should be to an employee’s work area.

Some states go beyond providing general breaks and a place to pump in their laws. Oregon even dictates the break length (30 min for every 4 hours). Indiana includes that an employer needs to provide cold storage to mothers for their milk. While the federal law gives mothers protection up to 1 year, some states allow the mother to pump milk beyond one year. Oregon gives protection up to 18 months, New York and Vermont give protection up to 3 years, and California has no time limit. Many states with breastfeeding laws also have laws against discrimination and termination for a pumping mother.

California arguably has the most comprehensive state laws protecting breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. The Healthy Horizons chart below compares the California state laws to the federal laws. California has stricter laws that provide breaks and a place to pump in close proximity to work for all employees, including exempt employees with no time limit. In addition, California also has an enforcement provision that specifies a penalty of $100 for each violation. There is also a federal penalty of $1,000 per violation occurrence in addition to this. A violation occurrence is counted as each time a mother’s pumping session is impacted, which can be multiple times in a day.


Check with your own state on the specifics of what your breastfeeding laws cover, or contact Healthy Horizons to learn more about corporate breastfeeding programs. Let your employees know how your company supports its breastfeeding mothers. Regardless of what state the company has offices in, employers providing a breastfeeding mother with a mother’s room, breastfeeding wellness program, and breaks for pumping milk during the day in a private and comfortable space will benefit from the appreciation of their employees knowing they are working in a supportive environment.

California Breastfeeding Coalition. “Breastfeeding Rights California Breastfeeding Laws & Regulations.”

californiabreastfeeding.org/breastfeedingrights/california-breastfeeding-laws. California Breastfeeding Coalition. n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2016

National Conference of State Legislatures. “Breastfeeding State Laws.”

www.ncsl.org/research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx. National Conference of State Legislatures. 30 Aug. 2016. Web. 9 Dec. 2016

United States Breastfeeding Committee. “Federal Workplace Law.” www.usbreastfeeding.org/workplace-law. United States Breastfeeding Committee. 2016. Web. 9 Dec. 2016

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