Merkley and Maloney Commend Labor Department Overtime Rule for Extending Breastfeeding Protection to Over 1 Million Working Women

Sep 18, 2015
Press Release
Breastfeeding champions call on agency to explicitly outline new protections so employers and employees know their rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) commended U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez for extending overtime protections to 4.8 million workers and in doing so, extending workplace protections to over 1 million breastfeeding women. In their letter to the Secretary, Merkley and Maloney also called on the Labor Department to explicitly outline breastfeeding rights when finalizing the overtime rule so that employers and working mothers are aware of their new rights and responsibilities.

“Expanding overtime and breastfeeding protections to more working women furthers the goal of ensuring that all employees receive fair pay and sensible accommodations to raise and financially support their family,” they wrote. “We urge you to move forward to a final rule that maintains the strongest possible protections for women and families.”

Merkley and Maloney led the effort to include the Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision in the Affordable Care Act in 2009. The provision requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a place, other than a bathroom, for employees to express milk. This provision only included protections for women considered non-exempt employees. Merkley and Maloney have also introduced the Support Working Moms Act that would expand the protections to exempt employees.

A full copy of the letter from Senator Merkley and Congresswoman Maloney is below. For a PDF, please click here.

The Honorable Thomas E. Perez
Secretary
Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20210

Dear Secretary Perez:

We commend the Department of Labor for using its authority under the Fair Labor Standards Act to propose a new rule that would extend overtime protections to 4.8 million workers, and in doing so, also extend protection of the Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision to over 1 million women. In developing the final rule, we encourage the Department of Labor to explicitly outline this significant additional benefit so that employers and working women are aware of their new rights and responsibilities under the law.

The Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision requires employers to provide adequate break time and a private space other than a bathroom for employees to express milk at work. While we are pleased that this important requirement is now law, we also note that only women considered non-exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act are entitled to these breaks. For this reason, we introduced the Support Working Moms Act which would expand protection under the Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers to exempt employees.

The good news is that the proposed overtime rule will also bring more than 1 million women into coverage under the current breastfeeding protection statute. Expanding overtime and breastfeeding protections to more working women furthers the goal of ensuring that all employees receive fair pay and sensible accommodations to raise and financially support their family.

Just as extending overtime and breastfeeding protections to more workers will help ensure the success of women and families, it is also vital to ensuring the wellbeing of American businesses. According to a report published by the Department of Health and Human Services, employers that provide support for breastfeeding mothers experience lower healthcare costs, lower rates of employee absenteeism, and higher employee retention rates.

Thank you for your continued efforts to help working families thrive and succeed. We urge you to move forward to a final rule that maintains the strongest possible protections for women and families.