New mothers in Oregon are eligible for up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave after the birth of a child, under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and, depending on the
circumstances, an additional 12 weeks of leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA). The Oregon Health Authority reports that approximately 58 percent of employed new mothers go
back to work after only 12 weeks. However, many mothers choose to breastfeed their children well beyond three months, which means that they return to work while still breastfeeding. The
workplace may present certain challenges for breastfeeding mothers, which can often be solved with a few simple steps on the part of the employer. In recent years, the rights of breastfeeding
mothers in the workplace have become protected under both federal and state laws.
The Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to include requirements for certain accommodations for breastfeeding
mothers. Furthermore, Oregon legislators signed Oregon Revised Statute 653.077 into law in 2008, adding accommodations for expression of breast milk to state wage and hour laws.
An employee must inform her employer that she intends to express breast milk while at work. Once she does this, the employer must provide extended break periods, during which the
employee may stop working to express milk. Regular wage and hour laws require that all employees have a 30-minute lunch break and two 10-minute break periods for each eight hour
shift. For breastfeeding mothers, it is recommended that each 10-minute break period be extended to provide a 30-minute break for every four hour shift.
Furthermore, the employer must provide a private space for the employee to use a breast pump.
The following requirements for the private space apply:
· May not be a restroom or toilet stall;
· Cannot be a cubicle;
· Must be in close proximity to the employee’s regular work space;
· Does not have to be a room meant solely for lactation;
· Can be a vacant office or conference room with a door that closes for privacy;
· Breastfeeding must be accommodated until the employee’s child is 18 months of age.
Like other accommodations required by the law, an employer must provide them unless they can show the accommodations would cause undue hardship. Undue hardship includes significant
expense or unfair burdens on other employees. However, in most cases, providing a private space will not cause undue hardship and breastfeeding mothers should be entitled to these
If you are an employee and believe your employer is not following wage and hour laws, you should contact an experienced employment attorney to help you stand up for your rights. Do not
hesitate to call the offices of HKM today for help.