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Break Time for Lactation

The University is required under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide an employee “reasonable break time”  to express breast milk for their nursing child. The requirement applies for one year after the child’s birth. The law places no limit on the number of breaks to be provided, and does not contain any guidance with respect to the duration of such breaks. The law requires that the University provide a private place other than a bathroom where the employee can express breast milk; see a list of lactation room locations at the University.

Duration of breaks and compensation for break time

Every individual is different, but pumping can take anywhere from 15 – 20 minutes plus travel time to the lactation room. On average, an individual may pump 2-3 times daily. It is Northwestern’s practice to compensate both exempt and non-exempt staff for the time they are expressing breast milk.

Considerations for employees and managers

As an employee, you will want to consider what may be required to complete your work, given the demands on your time. Depending on the role, you may also want to collaborate with your manager to review coverage needs during the time that you are away.

As a manager, consider the message that you want to send. A successful approach if often one that balances support of both the individual needs of the employee and the work needs of the department. Let the employee know that you will make the necessary accommodations, and you also expect the staff member to make the necessary efforts to complete the work in an effective manner. 

For additional consultation, contact your HR Business Partner or the Office of Human Resources.