Labor laws regarding expressing breast milk at work are derived from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This Act promotes clean, frequent and private breaks for nursing mothers up to one year post partum. Certain exemptions apply and women holding executive or sales jobs may not be covered. Employers are not required to compensate for pumping breaks unless the break takes less than 20 minutes.

Who Is Covered?

The FLSA only applies to non-exempt employees. Mothers holding employment positions that are exempt from coverage are not given federal protections. Examples of exempt positions include commissioned sales employees, computer specialists, drivers, farm workers, seasonal employees and executive professionals. The FLSA also does not require employers with fewer than 50 employees to adhere to breast feeding laws. This is not to say an employer would not permit these breaks, but the employer is under no federal obligation to do so.

Time Given to Pump

The Affordable Care Act amended the federal Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to provide an opportunity for nursing mothers to express breast milk at work for up to one year following the child's birth. The statute provides mothers a "reasonable time" for an employee to express breast milk for her child. Employers also must provide these breaks as frequently as needed by the nursing mother with an understanding that the frequency and duration of break times are likely to vary.

No Requirement to Compensate

Federal laws do not require employers to compensate employees for breaks longer than 20 minutes, including breast pumping breaks. However, if an employer chooses to compensate employees during break times, he cannot refuse to compensate an employee using her break time to express breast milk. The FLSA requires employers to count breaks lasting less than 20 minutes as part of compensable work time. Employees taking a longer, uncompensated break must be relieved from all work duties during the break or be paid.

Privacy Concerns

Employers covered under FLSA are required to provide a clean, private space for nursing mothers to express breast milk. The statute is clear that a bathroom is unacceptable and the space must be functional for use by the mother. A space that is made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space is shielded from view, and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public.

Breast Feeding as a Civil Right

Many states, including Arizona, have excluded public breastfeeding from public indecency laws and have made breast feeding and pumping a civil right. According to Section 41-1443 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, known as its civil rights code, "(a) mother is entitled to breast feed in any area of a public place or a place of public accommodation where the mother is otherwise lawfully present."