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Breastfeeding in the Workplace

breast pump

Breastfeeding Employees Rights

Planning ahead for your return to work can help the transition. Learn as much as you can before the baby’s birth, and talk with your employer about your options. Planning ahead can help you continue to enjoy breastfeeding your baby long after your maternity leave is over.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, most employers, must offer a breastfeeding employee reasonable break times to pump for up to 1 year after her baby is born and a place other than a bathroom to comfortably, safely, and privately express breast milk.

Under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977, as amended:

  • A woman has a right to breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where she has the right to be with her child, without respect to whether the mother’s breast or any part of it is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding of her child.
  • An employer must provide reasonable daily unpaid break-time, as required by an employee so she may express breast milk for her child to maintain milk supply and comfort.
  • The break-time for expression of milk, if possible, may run concurrently with any break-time, paid or unpaid, already provided to the employee.
  • An employer is not required to provide break-time if it would create an undue hardship on the operations of the employer.
  • An employer shall make reasonable efforts to provide a sanitary room or other location in close proximity to the work area, other than a bathroom or toilet stall, where an employee can express her breast milk in privacy and security.
  • The employer must create a policy for breastfeeding mothers and must post and maintain a poster in a conspicuous place that sets forth these requirements.
  • The employee must file within one (1) year of the occurrence or discovery of the violation of the Act. An employee of the District of Columbia government must file within 180 days of the occurrence or discovery of the violation.

If you feel you have been discriminated against under the Act, contact the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights at (202) 272-4559 or ohr.dc.gov.

Employees Rights Resources

Becoming a Breastfeeding-Friendly Employer

Companies successful at retaining valued employees after childbirth find that two components can make the difference: providing dedicated space for breastfeeding employees to express milk in privacy, and providing worksite lactation support.

The payoff is significant: more satisfied, loyal employees and cost savings to the business. These savings are seen in such areas as:

  • Retention of experienced employees;
  • Reduction in sick time taken by both moms and dads for children's illnesses; and
  • Lower health care and insurance costs.

Three essential requirements to ensure that employees can successfully combine work and breastfeeding include:

  • Time: Sufficient break time to pump, or flexible work hours.
  • Space: Provide a clean, comfortable, and private space for breast milk expression. Access to a sink for hand and pump washing is necessary. The bathroom is not an acceptable option! Nearby, or on-site childcare would facilitate employees breastfeeding while on break or during lunch.
  • Support: Develop “mother-friendly” workplace policies; improve attitudes towards breastfeeding by educating workers and management about the benefits of breastfeeding. Survey your employees to assess the need to establish a place to pump on your work site

Employers Resources

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