Breastfeeding laws in the United States

 

While the laws vary state by state, 49 states (all but Idaho) have some form of protection for public breastfeeding; that is, to protect a woman’s right to feed her child anywhere that she and her baby have a legal right to be. In short, if you’re allowed to be there, you’re allowed to breastfeed. 

 

A list of state laws can be found on the United States Department of Labor website. 

 

Federal and state laws also protect a woman’s right to breaks during the workday to express milk or breastfeed her baby. This protection was a significant challenge until the Fair Labor Standards Act was amended to include Section 7(r). Below is the exact language of the federal law as it relates to nursing mothers: 

 

(1) An employer shall provide— 
(A) a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk; and (B) a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk. 

 

(2) An employer shall not be required to compensate an employee receiving reasonable break time under paragraph (1) for any work time spent for such purpose. 

 

(3) An employer that employs less than 50 employees shall not be subject to the requirements of this subsection, if such 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. 

 

(4) Nothing in this subsection shall preempt a State law that provides greater protections to employees than the protections provided for under this subsection.

 

(Source: NCSL.org

 

Now it’s important to note several key takeaways here: 


First, the amount of break time is not specified, meaning a mother can take as long as it takes HER to express her milk. For some mothers this is 15 minutes, whereas for others it is 30. Some mothers pump twice a day, some four times. “Reasonable” break time makes accommodation for variations in biology. 


Second, the location cannot be a bathroom. 


Third, the breaks do not need to be paid.


Fourth, if the company has fewer than 50 employees and the breaks constitute a “hardship” to the employer, the requirements can be waived. This can be a challenging clause, and some states (including our own Vermont) have enacted additional protections to extend coverage to smaller companies. However, the burden of proof is on the employer to show that enforcement of the law would cause “undue hardship” - companies with fewer employees are not automatically exempted. More information can be found here

 

The National Conference of State Legislators website also includes a listing of special breastfeeding laws enacted by some states, an alphabetical listing of breastfeeding laws state by state, and some handy PDF files that can be printed and given to employers, such as this one outlining the basics of the law, and this one, explaining how to file a complaint in cases of non-compliance.

 

States with Municipal Ordinances that Mandate Lactation Accommodations

 

California

 

Employers cannot discriminate against women for breastfeeding or breastfeeding-related medical conditions.

Cal. Gov't Code §§ 12926, 12940.

 

An employer must provide reasonable unpaid break time to a woman to express breast milk, unless doing so would seriously disrupt the employer's business. If possible, the break time must occur during the employee's ordinary break time. The employer must make a reasonable effort to provide the mother with a private space close to her work area, other than a bathroom, to express breast milk.

Cal. Labor Code §§ 1030-1033.

 

San Francisco

The City and County of San Francisco Department provides of Lactation in the Workplace Policy for City employees. The policy mandates that breastfeeding employees receive a reasonable break time time to express milk upon their return to work from maternity leave and a lactation space that is not a toilet. The lactation space must be a clean and comfortable space free from intrusion and equipped with an electrical outlet.

Lactation in the Workplace Policy

Request for Lactation Accommodation

 

Airports

Public airports of specified flight volume shall provide a room or other location at each airport terminal behind the airport security screening area for members of the public to express breast milk in private. The room shall be outside the confines of a restroom and include a minimum of one chair and an electrical outlet.

ARTICLE 6. Airports [50470 - 50479]

 

Illinois

 

An employer must provide reasonable daily unpaid break time for an employee to express breast milk, unless doing so would unduly disrupt the employer's business. If possible, such break time must run concurrently with the employee's ordinary break time.

820 Ill. Comp. Stat. 260/10.

 

Employers must make reasonable efforts to provide employees with a private space close to their work area, other than a toilet stall, where they can express milk.

820 Ill. Comp. Stat. 820 § 260/15.

 

Chicago

 

Airports

The commissioner of aviation shall provide and designate a room or other location at each airport terminal behind the airport security screening area for members of the public to express breast milk in private. Each room or other location shall be located outside of the confines of a public restroom and shall include, at a minimum: a lockable door, a chair, a table, an electrical outlet, and a sink with running water.

Municipal Code Chapter 10-36. Section 10-36-345

 

New York

 

Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees who express breast milk in the workplace. They must also provide reasonable unpaid break time, or allow employees to use paid break or meal time, for employees to express breast milk for their nursing children, for up to three years following the child's birth. Employers must make reasonable efforts to provide employees with a private space near their work area where they can express milk. This applies to all employers.

N.Y. Labor Law § 206-c.

 

New York City

The Bill amends the administrative codes of the City of New York and requires that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Administration for Children’s Services, and the Department of Social Services make a lactation room available at a number of locations that serve members of the public. The lactation room needs to be a sanitary space that is not a bathroom and offer a chair, electrical outlet, and nearby access to running water.

Chapter 1 of title 17 § 17-199.

 

Pennsylvania

 

No specific breastfeeding laws at the state level.

 

Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s need to express breast milk as long as the accommodation does not impose an “undue hardship” on the employer. Reasonable accommodations include: providing unpaid break time, allowing an employee to use paid break, mealtime, or both to express milk, and providing a private, sanitary space that is not a bathroom.

Philadelphia Code § 9-1103(m)

 

Texas

 

No specific breastfeeding laws at the state level.
 

Sunset Valley

The City of Sunset Valley offers a workplace lactation support policy that mandates a work environment that is supportive of lactating mothers and encourages breastfeeding of their children up to one year following their birth.

 

The City of Sunset Valley shall provide a mixed use space, other than a bathroom, for lactating mothers, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public. The space shall have at a minimum a locking door, an electrical outlet, a clean work surface, a comfortable chair and access to a safe water source and a sink within a reasonable distance.

Ordinance, Section 9.15

 

San Antonio

The City of San Antonio’s Administrative Directive 4.15 Workplace Milk Expression stipulates that the City provide breastfeeding employees with accessible, adequate and private facilities other than a restroom for breast milk expression. Each Lactation Room or designated office space will be free from intrusion, either by the use of a locked door, or restricted entry access devices.

 

Administrative Workplace Directive 4.15

 

Wisconsin

 

No specific breastfeeding laws at the state level.

 

Dane County

Dane County resolution declares that one room, other than a restroom, will be clearly designated in every County-owned building as a place for nursing or expressing milk privately. The resolution further dictates that each such room will be equipped with an air exchange, lighting, an electrical outlet, a chair, a lockable door.

Resolution Providing Lactation Rooms