Connecticut employers have long since had to deal with Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-40w which has stated that every employee who wishes to express breast milk or breastfeed at work can do so during a meal or rest period. Employers are obligated to find a suitable room or other location (other than a toilet stall) where the employee can express her milk in private.

(For a fuller description of Connecticut law, check out one of my earliest posts here.)

But back in March, the Health Care bill contained a little-noticed provision that modified the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and required that employers provide reasonable break times for mothers to express their milk for one year after the child’s birth. I’ve previously summarized those new requirements here. 

Last week, the United States Department of Labor chimed in with a new "Fact Sheet", further explaining these new rights.  These rights were effective March 23, 2010.  Besides discussing the requirements, the Fact Sheet is notable for its descriptions on the coverage and scope of the law, and contains some important limitations on the law (which I’ve emphasized):

Only employees who are not exempt from the FLSA’s overtime pay requirements are entitled to breaks to express milk. While employers are not required under the FLSA to provide breaks to nursing mothers who are exempt from the overtime pay requirements of Section 7, they may be obligated to provide such breaks under State laws.

Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to the FLSA break time requirement if compliance with the provision would impose an undue hardship. Whether compliance would be an undue hardship is determined by looking at the difficulty or expense of compliance for a specific employer in comparison to the size, financial resources, nature, and structure of the employer’s business. All employees who work for the covered employer, regardless of work site, are counted when determining whether this exemption may apply.

Employers are not required under the FLSA to compensate nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk. However, where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time. In addition, the FLSA’s general requirement that the employee must be completely relieved from duty or else the time must be compensated as work time applies. See WHD Fact Sheet #22, Hours Worked under the FLSA .

If you do have a situation in your workplace with a new mother, make sure you understand the scope and limits of this new law and how it interacts with Connecticut law.  Its not as easy as it appears.