Working mothers who return to the workplace after childbirth and wish to pump breast milk recently received enhanced legal protection when Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed legislation requiring employers to provide paid lactation breaks and private locations at the worksite.
The new law, known as “Charlotte’s Law,” went into effect on August 11, 2020, and eliminates an employer’s discretion about whether to allow or prohibit employees to take the time they need to pump breast milk at work.
How New State Law Works
Charlotte’s Law was inspired by a Georgia public school teacher who wanted to pump breast milk during one of her planned breaks. A supervisor told her, however, she would have to either stop pumping during the break or stay late after school to make up the time. The difficult choice sparked the state legislature to take action to protect a woman’s right to pump and express breast milk in the workplace.
Under the new state law, an employer with one or more employees must provide a reasonable break time each day so a working mom can express breast milk for a nursing child (24 months of age or younger). So she can express the milk in privacy, the employer must provide a room or other location that (1) isn’t within a restroom and (2) is in close proximity to her work area.
The requirement to provide a reasonable break time to pump breast milk is in addition to an employee’s unpaid break time. The breastfeeding breaks, however, may run concurrently with other breaks. In addition, employers may not deduct from or reduce an employee’s pay for any breaks taken to pump breast milk.
Employers are likewise prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against an employee for pumping or asking to pump breast milk or reporting any violations of the law. Significantly, the law provides employees with private causes of action (or claims), including damages, attorneys’ fees, filing fees, and reasonable costs, explicitly including expenses for discovery (pretrial fact-finding) and document reproduction, for violations of the law.
Broader Protection Than FLSA Provides
Charlotte’s Law provides broader protection for breastfeeding working mothers than the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was amended by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The FLSA requires covered employers to provide reasonable, unpaid break time to an employee who needs to pump breast milk for a nursing baby up to only one year after the child’s birth.
The FLSA, as amended, also requires employers to provide the employees with a place to pump breast milk that isn’t a bathroom but is shielded from others’ view and free from intrusion by coworkers and the public. The Act’s breastfeeding protections apply only to nonexempt employees. In addition, employers with fewer than 50 employees aren’t required to comply with the law if doing so would create an undue hardship.