Leave - Nursing Mothers
On December 20, 2010, President Obama authorized the U.S. Office of
Personnel Management (OPM) to provide guidance to executive branch civilian
employees on workplace accommodations for employees who are nursing mothers.
This authority supports section 4207 of the Patient Protection and
Affordable Care Act (the Act), Pub. L. 111-148, which added a new subsection
(r) to section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) (codified,
as amended, at 29 U.S.C. 207). This new subsection (r) requires an employer
to provide nursing mothers with: a) a reasonable break time to express
breast milk for their nursing children for 1 year after the children’s birth
each time such employees have need to express milk; and b) a place, other
than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from
coworkers and the public which may be used by employees to express breast
- The Act does not require agencies to compensate nursing mothers for
breaks to express breast milk. However, many agencies already provide
compensated breaks (e.g., 15 minutes in morning and 15 minutes in the
afternoon) that employees may use for any purpose. Where these
compensated breaks are being provided, employees who use the break time
to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees
are compensated for such break time.
- The frequency of breaks to express milk, as well as the duration of
each break, will likely vary according to the needs of individual
mothers. Therefore, the Act also encourages the use of current workforce
flexibilities to accommodate the needs of nursing mothers for reasonable
breaks to express milk. The following workforce flexibilities are
recommended in the Act:
- Flexible or compressed work schedules may be established for
nursing mothers who needs time off to express milk during normal
working hours. Coast Guard organizations should review their local
Alternative Work Schedule (AWS) policies and practices and
collective bargaining agreements to determine how additional AWS
flexibilities may be implemented for this purpose. General guidance
on AWS can be found in COMDTINST 5330.10.
- Employees may also be allowed to use annual leave, leave without pay
(LWOP), compensatory time off, or credit hours, as discussed below:
- When employees request annual leave to express milk, supervisors
should be as accommodating as possible in reviewing and approving
such requests, consistent with the regulations in 5 CFR part 630,
subpart C, Annual Leave; local policies; and applicable collective
- At the discretion of supervisors, LWOP may be granted to
employees who request breaks to express milk during normal working
hours. As with annual leave, OPM encourages supervisors, whenever
possible, to act favorably upon requests by employees for LWOP to
express milk. Supervisors should review their local policies on LWOP
and applicable collective bargaining agreements.
- Supervisors may approve requests to use compensatory time off
that employees have earned in exchange for performing an equal
amount of time in irregular or occasional overtime work. For
employees under flexible work schedules, supervisors may approve
employees’ requests to earn compensatory time off for both regularly
scheduled and irregular or occasional overtime work.
- Where authorized, credit hours are those hours within a flexible
work schedule that employees elect to work in excess of their basic
work requirement (e.g., 80 hours in a pay period for full-time
employees) so as to vary the length of a workweek or workday.
Nursing mothers may be allowed to use accumulated credit hours to
fulfill their basic work requirement, thereby gaining time off from
work to express milk. The maximum amount of credit hours that may be
carried over from one pay period to another is 24 hours.
- For Coast Guard Headquarters employees, nursing mothers’ facilities
are available in both the Transpoint (B317) and Jemal building
(09-0925). Guidance is available in ALCOAST 189/11, WORKPLACE
ACCOMMODATIONS FOR CIVILIAN NURSING MOTHERS and ALCOAST 199/11,
PREGNANCY POLICY AND GUIDELINE UPDATES. Nursing mothers who need
information on lactation should consult with their health care provider.