Breastfeeding Month Reminder To Confirm Compliance With FLSA Section 7(r) Mandates

August 19, 2019

August’s National Breastfeeding Month celebration is the perfect time for employers to confirm their existing workplace breastfeeding policies and practices comply with Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and other applicable state and local law mandates.

Added to the FLSA by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, FLSA Section 7(r) generally requires an employer to give a nursing mother employed in a non-exempt position covered by the FLSA reasonable break time to express breast milk in a location other than a bathroom shielded from public or others view as needed during the first year following the birth of a child.  

Section 7(r) generally applies to employers covered by the FLSA.  However, Section 7(r) excuses an employer of fewer than 50 employees from the obligation to comply with Section 7(r)) if the employer can demonstrate compliance would cause 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. 

The Department of Labor has not adopted and has indicated that it does not intend to adopt implementing regulations under Section 7(r).  However, the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division Notice confirms the Wage and Hour Division’s construction of Section 7(r) as applicable only to nursing mothers employed in non-exempt positions under FLSA Section 7.  When evaluating their obligations to breastfeeding mothers in their workplace, however, employers should keep in mind that Section 7(r) does not preempt state and local law mandates concerning breastfeeding,  Consequently, in addition to verifying their organizations’ compliance under Section 7(r), employers also should confirm their organization’s policies and practices also meet or exceed applicable state and local mandates which may apply more broadly, impose higher requirements or both..

Employers should use care when deciding the space provided to a nursing mother for her breaks.  Section 7(r) requires covered employers to provide to a breastfeeding mother a space other than a bathroom shielded from the view of the public or others.  The Wage and Hour Division notice makes clear that under no circumstances can a bathroom serve as the space, but that any other temporary or permanent space that shields the breastfeeding mother from view including a lounge area adjoining a bathroom meets the requirements of Section 7(r). The Notice also states that locker rooms that function as changing rooms (i.e., for changing in and out of uniforms) could be adequate “as long as there is a separate space designated within the room for expressing milk that is shielded from view and free from intrusion with sufficient differentiation between the toilet area and the space reserved for expressing breast milk.  The Wage and Hour Division notice also states that the space need not be permanent but may include a “space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by a nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space is shielded from view, and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.” Thus, the test of if the space is adequate is whether it is “shielded from view” and “free from intrusion” by the public and other workers.  Employers should anticipate that the requirement that the space provides shielding from the view of others includes other nursing mothers.  Thus, the Wage and Hour Division notice encourages employers to “consider the number of nursing mothers employed and their work schedules to determine the location and number of spaces to designate or create” because the statute requires employers to provide break time “each time such employee has need to express the milk.”

In celebration of National Breastfeeding Month, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is hosting an @ePolicyWorks Twitter chat on breastfeeding in the workplace on Twitter on Tuesday, August 20, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time as well as a Supporting Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Online Dialogue.  The Supporting Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Online Dialogue provides an opportunity for nursing mothers, employers, state and local policymakers, and other stakeholders to contribute to an online dialogue on shaping compliance assistance strategies related to Section 7(r).  As an extension of this dialogue, the August 20 ePolicy Works Twitter chat will feature a discussion of the challenges or barriers nursing mothers might encounter in the workplace, and how DOL can help employers and nursing mothers understand their responsibilities and rights under the Nursing Mothers Provision by guests from the United States Breastfeeding Committee. Interim Executive Director Amelia Psmythe and Senior Workplace Program Manager & Policy Analyst Cheryl Lebedevitch.  Interested persons can review and contribute to the Supporting Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Online Dialogue and can use the hashtag #EPWChat to join the Twitter conversation on August 20.

The planned Dialogue and Twitter chat and other National Breast Feeding Month celebration are likely to increase awareness and sensitivity within workplaces of breastfeeding as well as other rights of workers relating to childbirth and childcare, particularly given the adopted and proposed changes made to many of these mandates in recent year.  Therefore, most employers also will want to verify the current adequacy of their maternity, paternity and disability leave policies and practices generally under the Family & Medical Leave Act and other relevant federal, state and local requirements along with confirming compliance with FLSA Section 7(r) and other breastfeeding mandates. Employers also should keep a careful watch out for changes in these and other federal mandates about rights of nursing mothers and other family related protections. The Labor Department is proposing changes to its FMLA forms even as the Trump Administration continues to support paid family leave legislation, Meanwhile, many state and local governments are adopting paid leave and other family friendly requirements that impact the obligations of employers with respect to nursing mothers and other parents within their jurisdictions.

Need more information or have questions about your company’s responsibilities under FLSA Section 7(r) or other wage and hour, leave or other workforce, compensation or employee benefit concerns, the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help.

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Labor and Employment Law and Health Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of management focused employment, compensation and employee benefits and other workforce and performance management, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

Highly valued for her rare ability to find pragmatic client-centric solutions by combining her detailed legal and operational knowledge and experience with her talent for creative problem-solving, Ms. Stamer’s clients include employers and other workforce management organizations; employer, union, association, government and other insured and self-insured health and other employee benefit plan sponsors, benefit plans, fiduciaries, administrators, and other plan vendors;   domestic and international public and private health care, education and other community service and care organizations; managed care organizations; insurers, third-party administrative services organizations and other payer organizations;  and other private and government organizations and their management leaders.

Throughout her 30 plus year career, Ms. Stamer has continuously worked with these and other management clients to design, implement, document, administer and defend hiring, performance management, compensation, promotion, demotion, discipline, reduction in force and other workforce, employee benefit, insurance and risk management, health and safety, and other programs, products and solutions, and practices; establish and administer compliance and risk management policies; manage labor-management relations, comply with requirements, investigate and respond to government, accreditation and quality organizations, regulatory and contractual audits, private litigation and other federal and state reviews, investigations and enforcement actions; evaluate and influence legislative and regulatory reforms and other regulatory and public policy advocacy; prepare and present training and discipline;  handle workforce and related change management associated with mergers, acquisitions, reductions in force, re-engineering, and other change management; and a host of other workforce related concerns on both a real-time, “on demand” basis with crisis preparedness, intervention and response as well as ongoing engagements on compliance and risk management; plan and program design; vendor and employee credentialing, selection, contracting, performance management and other dealings; strategic planning; policy, program, product and services development and innovation; mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcy and other crisis and change management; management, and other opportunities and challenges arising in the course of workforce and other operations management to improve performance while managing workforce, compensation and benefits and other legal and operational liability and performance.

A former lead consultant to the Government of Bolivia on its Pension Privatization Project with extensive domestic and international public policy concerns in pensions, healthcare, workforce, immigration, tax, education and other areas, Ms. Stamer has been extensively involved in U.S. federal, state and local health care and other legislative and regulatory reform impacting these concerns throughout her career. Her public policy and regulatory affairs experience encompasses advising and representing domestic and multinational private sector health, insurance, employee benefit, employer, staffing and other outsourced service providers, and other clients in dealings with Congress, state legislatures, and federal, state and local regulators and government entities, as well as providing advice and input to U.S. and foreign government leaders on these and other policy concerns.

Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & other Compensation Group, a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also is widely recognized for her extensive work and leadership on leading edge health care, employee benefits and other compensation, benefits, health and safety, insurance and other legal and operational compliance and risk management, government and regulatory affairs and operations concerns.

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see here or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

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