Federal Health Care Law Provides for Breaks for Nursing Mothers

One of the lesser known provisions of the recently adopted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act protects nursing mothers.  Section 4207 of the Act amends Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide for breaks for female employees to express their milk, and requires employers to provide them with a location other than a restroom in which to do so. 

Specifically, employers are required to provide nursing mothers with reasonable breaks any time that they need to express milk for up to one year after their child's birth.  The breaks need not be paid if they occur during working time.  In addition, employers are required to provide nursing mothers with a place (other than a restroom) that is shielded from view and free from intrusion in which to express their milk. 

There is an exception for some smaller employers.  Employers with 50 or fewer employees need not comply with the provision if its requirements would impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer's business.

While the provision does not impact any FMLA rights, it suggests that Congress may be open to expanding leave for childcare responsibilities beyond the 12 weeks of unpaid leave provided under the FMLA to care for a newborn or newly adopted or foster child.