The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed last week by President Obama will affect employers in numerous ways, many of which have not yet been explored in detail, owing to the newness of the law. One provision of the law that is certain to have a very real impact on employers across the country but that we have heard virtually nothing about is Section 4207. Section 4207, titled, Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Because it is born to the FLSA, its provisions apply to almost all employers—every employer engaged in interstate commerce of at least $500,000 per year, hospitals, businesses providing medical or nursing care for residents, schools and preschools, and government agencies.
So, what does the new law require? Quite a bit. The Act adds the following to Section 7 of the FLSA as a new subsection (r):
An employer shall provide:
(A) a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth; and
(B) a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.
There are some exceptions to these requirements.
First, employers are not required to pay employees who take a breastfeeding break—unless, of course, there is a state law that says otherwise. Second, an employer with less than 50 employees is exempt from the requirements if the requirements would “impose an undue hardship” by causing it “significant difficulty or expense” as compared to the employer’s size, resources, and the structure of its business.