Breastfeeding for Business

Employee Rights

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is natural, inexpensive, requires no special equipment, and lulls even the fussiest infants to sleep. For the practical minded, it is also staggeringly cost-effective. Individual households can save nearly $1,000 in healthcare costs during their baby’s first year if the mother nurses. Nationwide, up to $4 billion a year could be saved in healthcare costs, and $93 million a month in lower food-package costs if all women nursed their babies. Click here for more on how both mothers and babies benefit from breastfeeding.

Mothers: Know Your Rights

Breastfeeding mothers have a number of rights in the State of Hawaii. First, you have the right to breastfeed you baby in public. Click here to download and print a wallet card outlining these rights. Second, your employer is required to provide:

  • A reasonable break time for you to express milk for your nursing child for one year after your child’s birth, each time you have a need to express breast milk.
  • A location, other than the restroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public that you may use to express breast milk.

Employers who fail to comply shall be fined $500 per violation and may be liable for damages. For more on the law, see the Hawaii Employment Practices Law (Act 249, 2013 Regular Session).

Enforcement

If you believe your employer has violated this law, you may file a lawsuit in state court within two years after the occurrence of the alleged violation. Damages may include reasonable attorney’s fees.

Need Help?
For further assistance contact the Hawaii State Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service at 808-537-9140. Employees covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act may also be eligible for assistance from the United States Department of Labor: 808-541-1361.

Breastfeeding is Good for Business

Businesses who support their breastfeeding employees can actually save money. Women who continue to breastfeed after returning to work:

  • Miss fewer days because of baby-related illnesses
  • Have shorter absences when they do miss work
  • Have higher morale
  • Tend to return to work earlier from maternity leave

Supporting Breastfeeding Customers

The federal government and many states –including Hawaii– have laws that protect nursing women.

Businesses that provide breastfeeding support for their patrons enjoy customer loyalty. Employees, customers and the community at large view businesses that support breastfeeding as family-friendly. HMHB encourages employers, employees, and customers to nominate family-friendly businesses to receive recognition.

Supporting Breastfeeding Employees
As of July 1, 2013, all Hawaii employers are required to provide:

  • A reasonable break time for an employee to express milk for the employee’s nursing child for one year after the child’s birth, each time the employee has a need to express breast milk.
  • A location, other than the restroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public that may be used by an employee to express breast milk.

Employers who fail to comply shall be fined $500 per violation and may be liable for damages suffered by the employee. Hawaii State Law also requires employers to post this notice in a conspicuous place accessible to employees. For more on the State law, see the Hawaii Employment Practices Law (Act 249, 2013 Regular Session). Federal law also requires certain employers to provide lactation accommodations to certain employees. To access a chart outlining the similarities and differences between Federal and State law, click here.

Getting Started with Lactation Accommodations
If your company does not provide a private lactation room, identify another private area for nursing mothers to use. For example, companies have used an office with a door, a conference room, or a little-used closet or storage area. The room should be private and secure when in use. The room should also have an electrical outlet for mothers using an electric breast pump.

A restroom is not an acceptable lactation accommodation, as they are unsanitary and usually lack electrical outlets. It can also be difficult to manage a pump in a toilet stall.

Click here to view photos and videos of common lactation accommodation solutions and click here to view solutions by industry.

 

A lesser-known provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers that are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide a private area for mothers to nurse or express breast milk during the workday. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is making the requirement known with a new website from the Office of Women's Health. The website includes resources for employers that seek to comply with the ACA.

Launching a Comprehensive Lactation Support Program
Reasonable break time and private lactation accommodations are just the beginning! Many companies develop comprehensive lactation support programs and provide additional support to their breastfeeding employees, including:

  • Paid family leave
  • Flexible return to work options
  • Onsite childcare
  • Equipment
  • Education
  • Access to professional lactation support

If you are interested in providing additional worksite lactation support for breastfeeding employees, click here to access The Business Case for Breastfeeding toolkit.

Resources to Assist
If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment to assess your lactation accommodations or provide employee training, please contact us at 808-737-5805 or info@hmhb-hawaii.org.

Nominate a Family-Friendly Business

HMHB will formally recognize businesses that provide a family-friendly environment for employees, clients, customers, and/or visitors. Exemplary employers that institute supportive company policies and lactation support will also be publicly recognized for their contribution to improving maternal and child health in Hawaii. Click here to nominate a family-friendly business.

Paid Family Leave

Paid family leave provides paid time off work for individuals who must care for an ill family member or to bond with a new child. 

 

 

Sources: 1) The Business Case for Breastfeeding, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health. Available at: http://mchb.hrsa.gov/pregnancyandbeyond/breastfeeding/. 2) Supporting Nursing Moms at Work: Employer Solutions, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/employer-solutions/index.php.
This site provides general background information but is not intended to serve as a substitute for legal counsel. For specific legal advice on individual situations, please consult an attorney