253 – Lactation in the Workplace

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I.  Purpose

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S. Code 207) was amended in March of 2010 to require employers with 50 or more employees to support nursing mothers who opt to express breast milk at their workplace. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) intends to maintain compliance with the provisions set forth by this legal mandate without compromising its primary responsibility for providing effective and efficient law enforcement and correctional services to the citizens of Harris County.

II.  Policy

Legal requirements set forth by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) and the Reconciliation Act of 2010 (H.R. 4872):

A.  An employer must have a written policy that is available for review by all employees.

B.  An employer must provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has a need to express milk.

C.  The employer is not required to compensate an employee receiving reasonable break time for any work time spent for such purpose.

D.  The employer must provide a private place, other than a restroom or bathroom, for the employee to express breast milk.

E.  These requirements will not preempt a state law that provides greater protections to employees. (Note: Texas does not have greater protections than the federal mandate required herein).

III.  Definitions

Conduct Prohibited: Lactation in the workplace is a legally-protected provision for postpartum employees. As such, any employee who unnecessarily interferes with, prevents, maliciously embarrasses, jokes, ridicules, exhibits prejudice or discrimination, or otherwise inappropriately discusses an employee’s exercising her right to perform lactation in accordance with this policy may be subject to disciplinary action.

Lactation: The expression of breast milk by a nursing mother to store for her baby’s later use.

Private Place: A designated unoccupied office, meeting room, or any other space other than a restroom or bathroom that is reasonably clean, equipped with a chair or other type of seating, and is securable to prevent intrusion and to allow the employee to perform lactation in privacy without being disturbed.

Reasonable Break Time: The Federal Health Care Reform Act does not define what legally constitutes a “reasonable break time,” as both the frequency and duration of lactation sessions will vary by mother. The Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council has published that, as a general rule, it takes approximately 20 minutes to perform actual lactation and an additional 10 minutes to prepare beforehand and clean up afterwards for a total of approximately 30 minutes.

IV.  Procedures

A.  An employee approaching her return to regular or transitional duty after the birth of a child, and who intends to perform lactation during breaks upon returning to regular or transitional duty, will inform her immediate supervisor not less than five (5) weekdays prior to reporting for duty to allow preparation of any needed accommodations or administrative work related to a potential temporary reassignment.

1.  The employee’s supervisor, following authorization by the bureau commander and collaboration with HR, may temporarily effect the reassignment of an employee exercising her right to perform lactation in the workplace based upon a reasonable determination that the break time schedule or imposition created by the lactation process unduly interferes with the performance of her regularly-assigned duties or assigned duty area (e.g., patrol or other field operations).

An employee may also be temporarily reassigned to another work location due to a lack of resources or accommodations necessary to support sufficiently an employee’s lactation activities at her regularly-assigned location.

2.  Immediately following an employee’s advisement that she is no longer performing lactation in the workplace, the employee will resume adherence to all work-related expectations and standard operating procedures existing prior to her lactation period. If she had been temporarily reassigned or relocated, she will be returned to her original assignment and location as soon as administratively feasible.

B.  The employee’s supervisors will work with the employee to establish reasonable break times and to provide a regular private place where she can perform lactation. In doing so, a supervisor may exercise discretion in the scheduling of breaks and lunch periods provided it does not jeopardize the safety or security of any person or create an unreasonable or excessive imposition on other employees.

1.  There may occasionally be times when an employee needs more than the standard amount of time allotted for breaks or lunch in order to perform her lactation. On such occasions, supervisors should, when possible, permit the employee additional time for lactation. However, an employee who requires more than a total of 30 minutes during any given 8-hour shift in excess of the standard amount of time allotted for breaks or lunch in her assigned area will be directed to use vacation or compensatory time to make up the difference.

2.  While at work, an employee will utilize only the “private places” established and so designated for lactation in her assigned work area.

3.  All measures of sanitization (e.g., disinfectants, soaps, etc.) for lactation equipment and measures for ensuring the proper containment, storage, and temperature maintenance of expressed milk are the sole responsibility of the employee to whom the milk belongs.

a.  The employee may utilize a self-provided cooler or utilize an available workplace refrigerator as long as the expressed milk container is clearly marked.

b.  Lactation equipment will be maintained by the employee in an inconspicuous manner within the workplace.

C.  To the extent possible, all supervisors and employees will strive to ensure their discussions regarding, and the circumstances surrounding, an employee’s exercising her right to perform lactation in the workplace remain private and confidential.


This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

October 30, 2013

June 29, 2021

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