Breastfeeding in the Workplace: Know Your Rights! 

Understanding Your Rights as a Working Mother

It can be scary to go back to work and be unsure of what your rights are when it comes to breastfeeding or pumping. It is already such a big change in the day to day and stress level without having even more to worry about. Women often feel ashamed of it or that their coworkers will think they are taking advantage with extra “breaks”. There are also a lot of male-dominated professions that can cause unease for some new pumping mothers who feel their superiors may not understand all they are going through. Pumping is your way of providing food for your child. There is no shame in that. By law, you have this right!  

Texas Government Code Chapter 619 and the FLSA

If you reside in Texas, the Texas Government Code Chapter 619 states that all Texas public employers must provide a policy that supports breastfeeding. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to provide most “non-exempt” employees with a “reasonable break time” and a private space, other than a bathroom, for the expression of breastmilk (or pumping), through the child’s first birthday. The space provided must be functional for expressing milk, shielded from view, free from intrusion, available as needed and may NOT be a bathroom. Employers are not REQUIRED to pay the breastfeeding parent for breaks used specifically for expressing breastmilk. However, if an employer provides paid breaks as a normal benefit, the employee can choose to use their paid break for this purpose. While the laws do not specify a time length of the pumping breaks that is something that needs to be further discussed with a supervisor.  

Open Dialogue: Employee-Employer Agreements

Before the baby arrives, privately discuss with your supervisor the importance of breaks and the need for a pumping schedule. Promptly expressing milk prevents issues like plugged ducts and mastitis. Confirm that the provided pumping space meets legal requirements. If needed, Bayou City Breastfeeding can provide your employer documentation containing specific expectations and requirements needed in the workplace. Inform your employer that you’ll pump every 3 hours during work, taking 15-45 minutes, including cleanup. Clear communication ensures mutual understanding and agreement.

Beyond the First Birthday: Long-Term Considerations

Be aware that currently the laws are only applicable until the child’s first birthday. If pumping exceeds that time, a discussion with your employer needs to take place about accommodations for that.  

For further guidance on the laws, you can visit the following sites:

  • U.S. Department of Labor: Nursing Mothers FAQ
  • U.S. Department of Labor: Pumping at Work

Britni Gunter