Lactation Laws at Work/School
Nursing parents often have many questions about how to continue breastfeeding when they return to work or school. Knowing your rights and communicating with your supervisor prior to maternity leave can help with the transition back to work.
Since 2010, the Federal Law “Breaktime for Nursing Mothers Law” has helped support parents to continue breastfeeding. Employers must provide a private place (i.e., free from intrusion from coworkers and the public) that is not a bathroom for this purpose. This accommodation must be provided for one year after the child’s birth. Employees are not entitled to compensation for the time spent on break expressing breast milk, but the law entitles an employee to take breaks more frequently or longer than otherwise scheduled, within reason.
If your employer is not accommodating:
Call: 1-866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) available 8 am-5pm in your time zone.
Washington State has expanded on the Federal Law. The new law lengthens the amount of time employers must provide a reasonable accommodation to TWO years and it applies to 15 or more employees. Washington law provides specific civil rights protections for pregnant and breastfeeding employees. These protections apply to an employee’s pregnancy and pregnancy-related health conditions, which include health conditions during pregnancy and after the birth of the baby, such as the need to breastfeed or express milk. If a pregnant employee works for an employer with 15 employees or more, the employer is required to provide the following reasonable accommodations to the employee:
- Providing frequent, longer, or flexible restroom breaks;
- Modifying a no food or drink policy;
- Providing seating or allowing the employee to sit more frequently; and
- Refraining from lifting more than 17 pounds.
In addition, a pregnant employee may have rights to other workplace accommodation(s), as long as there is no significant difficulty or expense to the employer. These are:
- Job restructuring, including modifying a work schedule, job reassignment, changing a workstation, or providing equipment;
- Providing a temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position;
- Scheduling flexibility for prenatal visits;
Providing reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for two years after the child’s birth each time the employee has need to express the milk and providing a private location, other than a bathroom, if such a location exists at the place of business or worksite, which may be used by the employee to express breast milk. If the business location does not have a space for the employee to express milk, the employer shall work with the employee to identify a convenient location and work schedule to accommodate their needs; and
Providing any further accommodations the employee may need.
If the employer is not accommodating:
Leave a message on the Attorney General’s toll-free line at 833.660.4877
Submit a complaint using the online form and a staff member will follow-up
Find more information at Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Accommodations
If additional support is needed, please reach out to SW WA Healthy Families for assistance.