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Uncle Sam Wants Your Help With Breastfeeding, Really

By Robert Drago, Ph.D.

Since March 23, 2010, when the President signed the Affordable Care Act, employers with at least 50 employees have been required to provide reasonable breaks for mothers of infants under one year of age to express breast milk.  They are also required to provide 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. The law only covers nonexempt employees (typically hourly, not salaried employees) and the Department of Labor (DOL) is charged with interpreting and enforcing the law. IWPR just a released a report indicating that the law will dramatically increase rates of breastfeeding among working moms.

Why would the DOL need your help?  Because the law applies to employers with at least 50 employees in any location. That includes a lot of small establishments owned by bigger entities, including many chain restaurants, convenience stores, chain hair salons and barber shops, construction companies, small retailers, all but the smallest of airlines, public transit authorities, sales offices, branch banks, and so forth. These employers do not have to provide permanent facilities, but once a woman requests breastfeeding breaks, a place must be provided, and the DOL is looking for inventive ideas for practices and places that will work. Tell us about what has worked in your experience or use your imagination!

Please email your ideas to Youngmin Yi at yi<at>iwpr<dot>org by January 30, and we will put together the best ideas, post them here on the FemChat blog, and send them to the DOL.

Smaller employers are exempt from the law if they can prove that following it would be an “undue burden.” So, the more great ideas we can generate to make the law work in small workplaces, the fewer small employers will ask for (or receive) exemptions, and more moms will finally be able to breastfeed and hold down a job.

Thanks for any help with this noble work!

Dr. Robert Drago, Ph.D., is Research Director with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Prior to joining IWPR, Dr. Drago held positions as Senior Economist in the Joint Economic Committee of Congress and Professor at the Pennsylvania State University in the departments of Women’s Studies and Labor Studies. He has published multiple articles and books, including his latest books Unlevel Playing Fields: Understanding Wage Inequality and Discrimination (3rd Edition) and Striking a Balance: Work, Family, Life.

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