New Georgia Law Protects Breastfeeding Moms in the Workplace
Working mothers who return to the workplace following childbirth and wish to pump breast milk received enhanced legal protection on August 11, 2020 when Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed new legislation requiring employers to provide paid lactation breaks and private locations at the worksite for employees to express breast milk. The new law, known as “Charlotte’s Law” and codified at O.C.G.A. § 34-1-6, eliminates an employer’s discretion as to whether to allow or prohibit employees to take the time they need to pump breast milk at work.
Charlotte’s Law was inspired by a Georgia public school teacher who wanted to breast pump during one of her planned breaks but was told by her supervisor that she would either have to stop pumping during her break or stay late after school to make up the time she used to pump. That difficult choice sparked the state legislature to take action to protect a woman’s right to breast pump and express breast milk in the workplace.
Under the new state law, an employer with one or more employees is required to provide reasonable break time each day to an employee who needs to express breast milk for a nursing child (a child who is 24 months of age or younger). The employer also must provide a room or other location other than within a restroom and in close proximity to the employee’s work area where the employee can express her milk in privacy.
The requirement to provide reasonable break time to pump breast milk is in addition to an employee’s unpaid break time but such breaks may run concurrently with other breaks. An employer may not deduct from or reduce an employee’s pay for any breaks taken to pump breast milk. Likewise, an employer is prohibited under Charlotte’s Law from discriminating or retaliating against an employee for pumping or requesting to pump breast milk, or for reporting any violations of the law. Significantly, the law provides employees with private causes of action, including damages, attorneys’ fees, filing fees, and reasonable costs (explicitly inclusive of expenses associated with discovery and document reproduction) for violations of the law.
Charlotte’s Law provides broader protection for breastfeeding working mothers than those provided under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was amended by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The FLSA requires covered employers to provide reasonable, unpaid break time to an employee who needed to pump breast milk for a nursing child up to one year after the child’s birth. The FLSA, as amended, also requires that the employer provide these employees a place to pump breast milk that is not a bathroom, shielded from the view of others, and free from intrusion by co-workers and the public. The FLSA’s breastfeeding protections apply only to non-exempt employees, and employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to comply with the law if doing so would create an undue hardship.