Breastfeeding and returning to work: Part 2

The 2022 PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act provides more working parents with breastfeeding workplace protection, such as reasonable breaktimes and private spaces.

A black and white image of a breastfeeding parent.
Photo: Pexels/Alina Matveycheva.

This article is part of a two-part series on breastfeeding and the workplace. Read part one here.

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there are federal provisions related to breastfeeding and workplace accommodations that have been enacted to support working parents. One important part of legislation is the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law, which was added to the FLSA under the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

This law requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom space for non-exempt (hourly) employees to express breast milk during the workday. The Break Time for Nursing Mothers law was updated in 2022 by the new PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, or "PUMP Act," which also grants these rights to approximately 9 million additional workers, including farmworkers, teachers, registered nurses and others.

Workplace rights for nursing parents include:

  • Break time: Employers are required to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for their nursing child for up to one year after the child’s birth. This break time must be provided whenever the employee has the need to express milk. If the employer provides compensated breaks and the nursing parent uses that time to express milk, the employee must be compensated.
  • Private space: Employers must provide a private space for nursing parents. This space should be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public. It cannot be a bathroom.
  • Frequency and duration: The frequency and duration of breaks will vary depending on the needs of the nursing parent and the nature of their work. The law does not prescribe specific break times, but emphasizes providing flexibility.
  • Exemption for small employers: Employers with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from the requirements if compliance would impose an undue hardship. However, this is a narrow exemption, and employers must demonstrate significant difficulty or expense.

State laws

It’s important to note that individual states may have additional laws that provide further protections for nursing mothers in the workplace. Some states have enacted more expansive legislation that covers a broader range of employees or provides additional accommodations.

The National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) notes that all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have specific laws allowing breastfeeding in any public or private location. They also provide a summary of state breastfeeding laws. Check the laws in your state.

Michigan law

Currently, Michigan does not have breastfeeding laws at the state level; however, breastfeeding rights are protected in the following ways:

  • Michigan Break Time for Nursing Mothers: Michigan adheres to the federal FLSA provisions regarding break time for nursing mothers. 
  • Michigan Breastfeeding Antidiscrimination Act: Michigan law allows parents to breastfeed their babies in any location, public or private, where the parent is otherwise authorized to be present. This means that parents have the right to breastfeed in public spaces without fear of discrimination or harassment.
  • Breastfeeding Support in Michigan: Where you can find Michigan breastfeeding support for one-on-one support, clinics, resources, supporters and baby-friendly hospitals.

For additional resources, please visit other health and nutrition sites at Michigan State University Extension, such as the Safe Food = Healthy Babies website.  

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