Worksite Rest Breaks for Breast Milk Expression (Oregon, 2007)

After ten years of citizen advocacy, the 2007 Oregon legislature passed the Rest Breaks for Breast Milk Expression Law which sets a minimum standard for accommodating breastfeeding employees after the birth of a child.

Applying to employers with 25 or more employees (counted across all locations), there are three primary components to the law: time, space and remedy. These components are explained in detail under the what does the law do section of the Frequently Asked Questions below.

Links to the legislative text and related legal documents

  • The text of the ORS 653.077 is available here
  • The Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) has administrative oversight for the law. Read Administrative Rules here.
  • BOLI also has Technical Assistance available for employers: here or by calling: 971-673-0761
  • The Oregon Department of Human Services Working and Breastfeeding page is here.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why was the law necessary?

What does the law do?

Where and when does the law apply?

What are the employer’s responsibilities?

Employer tips for success?

What are the employee’s responsibilities?

Employee tips for success?

How to file a complaint?

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Why was the law necessary?

Only one in five children in Oregon receives the absolute minimum of six months exclusive breastfeeding, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization to reduce risk of obesity, diabetes, infectious disease, asthma, allergies and certain childhood cancers.

Mother-child separation due to work presents a serious challenge to six months exclusive breastfeeding, especially when workplaces do not accommodate the simple needs of breastfeeding employees. Since mothers with children under three are the fastest-growing segment of the US workforce, it is essential for breastfeeding success that a workplace strategy be in place across the culture.

A breastfeeding employee needs regular breaks throughout the work day in order to maintain her milk supply. Research and experience have shown that a 30 minute break every four hour work segment is the minimum time needed for the employee to get to the pump station, set up the pump, express milk, clean pump parts, get the milk to cold storage and return to the work station.

The Oregon Department of Human Services has had a voluntary recognition program for accommodating employers for over twelve years, but only a few dozen Oregon employers were enrolled in the program despite sustained promotion efforts.

An employer mandate was necessary to meet the health needs of Oregon’s babies, and thus guard the health of Oregon’s present and future work force.

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What does the law do?

The law sets a minimum time and space accommodation standard for breastfeeding employees.

As of January 1, 2008, Oregon employers of 25 or more across all locations are required to provide clean, private space and 30 minute breaks every four hours to accommodate breast milk expression during the workday.

Space Requirements: Allows for flexibility in designating an on-site pumping station in close proximity to the employees work area. Reasonable efforts must be made to find a location which is private, or free from intrusion by co-workers or the public. It is extremely unlikely that a toilet stall in a restroom would meet the threshold of this definition in the administrative rules, effectively prohibiting this location.

Time requirement: Breastfeeding employees are allowed to take a 30-minute break every four hours worked. Any paid break time must be applied to the 30 minutes; the remainder may be unpaid. The law allows for making up the missed time if mutually agreeable. The employee’s health insurance benefits are protected regardless.

Remedy: Designates the Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) as the regulatory body, to appoint a standing committee to educate and assist employers with specific questions related to industry-wide compliance. BOLI also has the authority to assess fines if such becomes necessary.

Additional Details

  • Protects health care coverage in such instances where the employees benefit package is related to paid hours worked. (Example: 40 hour work week less 3.3 hours/week unpaid breaks to pump = full benefits).
  • An employer may allow an employee to temporarily change job duties if the employee’s regular job duties do not allow her to express milk.
  • Allows individual employers and entire industries to appeal to BOLI for exemption or modification for undue hardship.
  • Allows an individual employer to adopt more generous policies.
  • Allows but does not require smaller employers to provide these accommodations.

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Where and when does the law apply?

The Breastfeeding and Return to Work Law went into effect January 1, 2008.

Employers with 25 or more employees are mandated to provide this accommodation. Employer size is realized by number of employees, even across multiple locations. Applies to full and part time workers.

The law went into effect for schools at the same time, and local school boards were required to have written policy by the start of the 2008-2009 school year. The Rest Breaks for Breast Milk Expression law is exempt from teacher union collective bargaining.

What are the employer’s responsibilities?

Responsibilities:

Employers with 25 or more employees have the responsibility to educate themselves on the requirements of the law and to accommodate breastfeeding employees with time and private space for breast milk expression. Number of employees is counted across all locations; five separate locations each employing five people, is counted as employing 25 and must accommodate.

 

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Employer tips for success

Tips for success:

Keep a positive, problem-solving attitude and pioneering spirit!

Understand what’s in it for you. Lactation programs have significantly positive Returns on Investment.

Consider how much easier it is to accommodate planned pumping breaks that will be needed for a limited time, compared to unexpected employee absenteeism due to illness.

  • Formula fed infants are ill 33% more often than breastfed babies, and their parents miss 27% more work to care for them, according to researchers Cohen, Mrtek & Mrtek, in their 1995 study, available for download here.
  • Download the US Breastfeeding Committee position paper: Workplace Breastfeeding Support.
  • There is also an uncalculable ripple effect of a sick baby, sick parent, spouse, co-worker, etc.
  • It is the absence of breastfeeding accommodation in the work day that impacts efficiency, not the mandates breaks. The impact of missed days of work due to illness preventable by breastfeeding is staggering to consider.

Be creative and flexible.

  • Any place a human being is employed, there are accommodations made for the biologic needs of that human body. Accommodating a lactating human body is really not that much more difficult. See the Workplace Pump Station section of this website for creative ideas to meet the space requirement.

The same ingenuity that makes your company great can make the business better through family-friendly policies and practices.

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What are the employee’s responsibilities?

Responsibilities:

Breastfeeding employees need to give their employers advance notice of their intention to breastfeed after return to work in order to access the rights afforded by this law.

Sample notification letter is here.

The breastfeeding employee may need to bring her own cold storage cooler for breastmilk. The employer is not required to provide refrigeration; they are required to provide space for a cooler.

Employee tips for success?

Tips for success:

Keep a positive, problem-solving attitude and pioneering spirit!

Read the Breastfeeding and Return to Work section of this website for practical steps to take before the baby is born, immediately after the baby’s birth, while on maternity leave, and upon return to work.

Some employees have found it helps to use terms like “lactation program” and “health benefits” rather than “breast” or “breastfeed”.

Remind your employer that you and your baby will be significantly healthier if you breastfeed. This has significant financial advantages for the employer. Two good points to make:

  • Formula fed babies are sick 33% more often than breastfed babies and their parents miss 27% more work to care for them. (Cohen, Mrtek & Mrtek, 1995) Full study, available for download here.
  • It is easier to provide the temporary, scheduled breaks for breast milk expression than it is to cover missed shifts due to illness. This is a good point to make with co-workers also.
  • This is a temporary need.

Be helpful in thinking through how this could work, particularly if you work in a non-office setting. See the Workplace Pump Stations section of this website for creative ideas, or let us know what you discovered.

Keep a written record of the process, including conversations, notifications and agreements; even logging use of the pumping room is advisable. These records will be invaluable if there is a dispute.

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How to file a complaint?

The Bureau of Labor and Industry administers the Oregon Rest Breaks for Breast Milk Expression law.

Complaints need to be filed with their wage and hour division, and can be done in English or Spanish, online or phone.

Contact them online or by phone at: 971-673-0761

Once a complaint is filed, the Bureau of Labor will contact the employer and see if there are any gaps in understanding of the law and their responsibilities, any barriers they need help to overcome, and their awareness of a breastfeeding employee’s difficulties. Efforts will be made to resolve the problem before the employer is fined.

It is possible to file an anonymous complaint, or to file on behalf of another person, however, without the salient details, the Bureau of Labors’ effectiveness will be limited.

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