Know Your Rights: Breastfeeding Laws
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), new plans are required to cover breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling. If you have been denied insurance coverage for lactation services or breast pumps, you can file a complaint with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner at: https://www.insurance.wa.gov/file-complaint-or-check-your-complaint-status. When filing a complaint make sure to have your insurance card available. The Office of the Insurance Commissioner investigates complaints and works with insurance providers to resolve them.
In the Community
Many breastfeeding mothers and family members are concerned about being confronted while breastfeeding their child out in the community. It's important to know that Washington law protects a mother's right to breastfeed in public places. This includes parks, buses, government buildings, restaurants, stores, libraries, etc. It's unlawful for someone to request that you stop breastfeeding, cover your child, move to a different area, or leave.
If you are breastfeeding and someone complains to you, politely explain that the law protects the right of the mother to stay where she is to breastfeed. This law does not apply to employees.
To learn more about this law or to file a discrimination complaint within six months of the incident, contact the WA Human Rights Commission, (800) 233-3247. (RCW 49.60.030 and 49.60.215)
The City of Seattle also has a local ordinance protecting the rights of breastfeeding mothers. If you experience breastfeeding discrimination within the City of Seattle, please contact the Seattle Office of Civil Rights, (206) 684-4500.
You can also contact the Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington to request support.
Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law
In 2010, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA, 29 U.S.C 207(r)) was amended with Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to state that employers shall provide breastfeeding employees with "reasonable break time" and a private, non-bathroom place free from intrusion to express breast milk during the workday, up until the child's first birthday. Read the Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet and current interpretation of the law for more information.
- Unpaid break time for nursing mothers to express milk for up to one year after the birth of a child.
- A private, non-bathroom space free from intrusion.
- Only employees who are not exempt from the FLSA's overtime pay requirements are entitled to breaks to express milk. While employers are not required under the FLSA to provide breaks to nursing mothers who are classified as 'overtime exempt' pay requirements of Section 7, they may be obligated to provide such breaks under State laws.
- Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to the FLSA break time requirement if compliance with the provision would impose an undue hardship. Whether compliance would be an undue hardship is determined by looking at the difficulty or expense of compliance for a specific employer in comparison to the size, financial resources, nature, and structure of the employer's business.
- All employees who work for the covered employer, regardless of work site, are counted when determining whether this exemption may apply. So a franchise of a larger business that has just 20 employees on site does have to comply with this law.