The presence of nursing and pumping mothers in the workplace has grown exponentially over the last many decades. Now, it is common to see a mother providing her baby with life-sustaining breast milk or pumping breast milk into a bottle or bag while on the job. However, questions and issues frequently arise regarding the rights of nursing mothers at work and the appropriateness of doing so.
Nursing Mothers at Work and New York Law
Although questions may arise as to the rights of mothers to nurse in the workplace, the NYS Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act makes it clear that mothers have the right to pump breast milk while on the job. The law does not, however, give a mother the right to nurse a child while at work.
Place to Pump
Federal and state law both require an employer to provide their nursing employees a dedicated place to pump breastmilk that is shielded from public view and the gaze of workers.
This space cannot be a bathroom, however, and must contain a chair and a table with a flat surface. When no dedicated space is available, the employer must find an adequate temporary space for pumping.
Time to Pump
Employers are required to provide nursing mothers with a reasonable amount of time to pump milk. New York law says reasonable is defined as at least 20 minutes for every three hours of work, but more time may be required.
However, employers are not required to pay mothers for this time. Some mothers opt to pump while on a paid lunch or break, but this is not mandatory. When a mother takes time out of her work schedule to pump, her employer must give her the opportunity to make up the time she’s missed by working before or after normal work hours.
Employer and Employee Notice
Both employers and employees have a notice requirement when it comes to pumping at work.
Employers must inform their employers who are returning from giving birth that they have the right to pump breastmilk at work. Additionally, employees who have given birth should tell their employers before returning to work of their intention to pump.
Employer Refusal or Retaliation
Sadly, many mothers face problems fully exercising their rights to pump at work. In some cases, their bosses outright refuse to make the accommodations called for in the statute. In others, bosses significantly abridge women’s rights by allowing them only a few minutes a day to pump or forcing them to pump in an inadequate location.
In more extreme cases, the employer may take retaliatory action against the mother, such as firing her or reducing her wages for exercising her right to pump or for reporting non-compliant behavior.
Protecting Your Rights
A mother’s right to pump at work is well established. Mothers should feel comfortable exercising this right without fear of reprisal. If you or someone you know is facing problems from an employer for pumping at work, call The Cimino Law Firm for help protecting your rights.