The Affordable Care Act includes regulations for what employers must do to accomodate nursing mothers at work. Although businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from the mandate, businesses with 50 or more employees will need to take specific actions in order to be compliant.
These breastfeeding facts will help you ensure that you’re following all applicable regulations to your business and workers. While you’re reviewing compliance requirements, keep in mind that some state requirements are stricter than the national requirements. If that’s the case in your state, you’ll have to follow the stricter regulations.
The ACA requires that qualified businesses provide a reasonable break time for nursing mothers, according to the Department of Labor (DOL). These breaks should be given whenever the employee needs to express milk. However, employers aren’t required to compensate for that time. Remember, you can’t specify a limit on how many times a mother can pump milk during work, and you can’t require that she pump the same number of times every day or every week.
You can’t just provide a small corner in a bathroom for breastfeeding. The ACA requires that the breastfeeding area should either be a private place set aside only for breastfeeding or it should be immediately available whenever a nursing mother needs it. The area should meet all the needs of a nursing mother, such as being shielded from view or intrusion. This may mean providing a lock to prevent anyone from accidently walking in.
A nursing mother should be given breaks for pumping for up to one year after her child is born. Your business is required to provide these breaks to mothers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which includes employees of businesses engaged in interstate commerce that make no less than “$500,000 in annual dollar volume of business.” In addition, nursing mothers who work at hospitals, some schools, some caregiving institutions or as certain types of domestic workers qualify for FLSA coverage.
Some mothers, even if they work for a business that meets the qualifications of the FLSA, aren’t required to get nursing breaks because they are considered exempt employees under the FLSA. Exempt employees are a special class of employees who are not eligible for overtime pay. These employees must meet a minimum income level, be paid through salary (not hourly wages), and perform job duties that are considered managerial or require advanced knowledge or expertise. You are not required to provide exempt employees with nursing breaks. However, the DOL encourages businesses to offer breaks to all nursing mothers, regardless of exemption status or legal requirement.
Check Your State Laws
According to the DOL, stricter state laws override the ACA’s requirements, so if your state has more stringent breastfeeding requirements, you’ll need to comply with those. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that at least 25 states have laws regulating breastfeeding during work. For example, Colorado requires employers to provide break time for expressing milk for two years after the birth of the child. Maine requires employers to provide pump breaks for three years, and the state has specific anti-discrimination laws protecting nursing mothers.
Breast Pumps, Counseling and ACA-Compliant Plans
Remember that businesses with 50 or more employees are required to provide health care coverage or face a tax penalty. The National Women’s Law Center reports that ACA-compliant health plans provide lactation counseling and full coverage for breastfeeding equipment, such as breast pumps. This means that nursing mothers don’t have to pay a co-payment, co-insurance or deductible for nursing equipment. The insurance company is allowed to put in some restrictions as to what types of pumps can be used and the like.
When you’re considering your new plan year, make sure to check that the plans you’re considering are compliant with these regulations. If your current plan is considered “grandfathered,” meaning that it has been granted a special status and does not need to comply with new mandates, you won’t have to begin offering coverage unless you substantially change your plan.
Meeting the ACA’s requirements for breastfeeding moms can be tricky. Knowing the breastfeeding facts can help, but you may want to consult a lawyer to discuss specifics. Providing nursing breaks and a quiet room that meets the ACA requirements to all nursing moms on your staff, regardless of FLSA status, is a good way to ensure compliance and show your employees that you respect their needs.
This content is provided solely for informational purposes. It is not intended as and does not constitute legal advice. The information contained herein should not be relied upon or used as a substitute for consultation with legal, accounting, tax and/or other professional advisers.
Stephanie Dwilson has extensive experience providing expertise on topics including health, law and marketing. She’s a science journalist published by Fox News, a marketing expert and an attorney with expertise in personal injury law. She’s also a small business expert featured by Business Week and Millionaire Blueprints magazine.