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Legal & Regulatory: Breastfeeding Breaks: What is the definition of “a private place” under the breastfeeding break provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?

   12/11/2012

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, enacted March 23, 2010, requires employers subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide unpaid, reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for a year after her child’s birth.

The act defines a “private place” as a place, other than a bathroom, that may be used by an employee to express breast milk; the private place must be shielded from view and free from intrusions from co-workers and the general public. Employers creating this private place may want to consider some practical issues. For instance, should the door have a lock? How will you coordinate the use of the room if more than one employee has a need for it? Perhaps you will want to implement a sign-up sheet.

Although the act does not require an employer to provide equipment for the nursing mother, you may want to consider providing electric breast pumps, which are faster than hand pumps (if you do provide the electric pumps you should have your employees sign a release of liability waiver prior to using the equipment). Employers may also want to provide a small refrigerator for storing the milk and a sink either in the room or nearby for cleaning up the equipment after the nursing mothers are finished.

Employers will want to use this opportunity to create a room that demonstrates their commitment to a family-friendly work environment. Make the room as comfortable as possible. Other suggestions include providing parenting magazines, coat trees and bulletin boards for baby pictures. Finally, make sure your supervisors are trained on the new requirements. They should be supportive and encourage others not to intrude on the employees’ privacy during this time. For more information on your requirements as an employer, see the U.S. Department of Labor’s guidance for accommodating nursing mothers.

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