Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Provision For Nursing Mothers, requires employers to provide:
1. 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; &
2. A place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view & free from intrusion from coworkers & the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.
Many states go above and beyond federal requirements. Read more about state breastfeeding laws, here.
An out-of-office solution such as Work & Mother satisfies compliance and provides an added layer of privacy and security, while still being convenient and easy to access.
Why in-office solutions such as wellness rooms are failing working mothers:
Availability: with more companies shifting to open office floor plans and the use of glass walls, privacy is becoming hard to come by and wellness rooms are being used as a catchall for any activity requiring privacy. Therefore, they are often unavailable when moms need them most. Women don’t always feel comfortable asking coworkers, especially males or a superior, to vacate the room so she can pump.
Privacy: even with a locking door (something wellness rooms should not have – find out why), a wellness room typically doesn’t offer a level of privacy desired when pumping. First of all, a woman must carry her equipment to and from the room, signaling to the rest of the office and making her feel on display. Secondly, a woman must alter or remove her clothing in order to pump. It can feel incredibly vulnerable to be unclothed while coworkers are knocking or carrying on conversations right outside the door.
Cleaning and Refrigeration: After pumping, a woman needs to clean the pump parts and refrigerate the milk. Often times, this means carrying it all from the wellness room to the company break room. In our research, it was this act that led to the majority of harassment and inappropriate comments by coworkers who felt uncomfortable by this. Additionally, what is most commonly the germiest item in the office? The faucet handles in the kitchen and break room!
Sanitary Space: People use wellness rooms when they are unwell. The last place a mother should prepare food for a newborn without an established immune system, is in a germy room where others have been sick. With COVID-19, this is more important than ever.