Better World

Nursing mothers file class action lawsuit in New York — know your rights to pump at the workplace

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Federal investigators are looking into the conditions for nursing mothers working in New York state and city agencies after a growing list of lawsuits have been filed against institutions such as the New York Police Department, the Fire Department of New York, and the state Department of Education.

In the most recent lawsuit, State Trooper Schashuna Whyte in the Bronx alleges she was forced to pump breast milk in her patrol car, shared locker rooms, storage rooms, and bathrooms while at work. These conditions are a violation of both state and federal law. 

What are your rights to pump in the workplace?

The right to pump breast milk while at work is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and is a federal law. There may also be local and state laws in place in your area that protect a breastfeeding person’s right to express milk in the workplace. 

The law is known as Break Time for Nursing Mothers, and requires employers that are non-exempt from the FLSA to provide basic accommodations for breastfeeding and pumping milk for one year after an employee welcomes a new baby. Those accommodations must include a place other than a bathroom that is private and free from intrusion.

Breastfeeding workers also have the right to reasonable breaks in order to have sufficient time to pump while at work. The law does not require those breaks to be paid unless paid breaks are provided to all employees — then those breaks must continue to be paid if nursing parents use them to pump at work.

You can find out from your supervisor or human resources department whether your workplace is covered under the FLSA. If you have experienced or witnessed a violation of the right to pump milk at work, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Mckenna Saady is a staff writer and digital content lead for ParentsTogether. Before working for nonprofits such as the Human Rights Campaign and United Way, Mckenna spent nearly a decade as a child care provider and Pre-K teacher. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now lives in Philadelphia and writes poetry, fiction, and children’s literature in her spare time.