Accomodating Nursing Mothers


Our company (Delaware) is extremely tight on space. We have grown exponentially and are literally on top of one another. With that being the case, we do not have any available office or storage space to accommodate nursing mothers. We have 90 employees, so we must provide accommodation.

We are considering modifying the ladies' locker room, which has a locked door, by installing an outlet for a pump, installing privacy curtains (like those used in hospitals), purchasing a comfortable vinyl chair (so that the chair can be wiped down) and a table for a pump, bottles, and any other necessary accessories.

Our concern is that we would not be violating the new law since the mothers would have to walk through the bathroom area to get to the enclosed locker room. We would install an antiseptic towel dispenser (like the one's in grocery stores that you use to wipe down cart handles) so individuals could clean their hands and wipe down the door handle before entering.

Also, does it matter that there is a shower stall in the locker room?

I had contacted SHRM's HR Knowledge Center, but since the law is so new, they were not able to provide clear direction as to whether this would be an acceptable alternative.

Has anyone experienced this type of situation, and if so, how did you make the reasonable accommodation?


  • 5 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Glad to have you on the forum, Welcome2. Just my two cents, but from the details you have given, I would think the solution would be a reasonable one. Is the locker room located in such a way that an alternate entrance could be created? Our space is limited also, so my solution was to place a lock on the break room door and make a sign stating the room was in use.
  • All of our facilities have limited space, and we were faced with the issue for the first time last year. They put a lock on the breakroom door and made a sign, and it seems to be working out great.

    I think modifying your locker room to for this purpose sounds appropriate. If she only has to walk through the bathroom area and you're providing antiseptic wipes, and there is a lock on the door, you're providing what I would consider a reasonable accomodation.

    Having breastfed a baby while sitting on top of the toilet in a grungy bathroom stall 30+ years ago myself, I have to say, we've come a long way!
  • Thank you for your prompt and helpful responses!
  • I agree with the others - I think this accommodation is reasonable and since it is not actually inside the bathroom, I believe you're being compliant.

    I have to say - that puts what my company does to guys are definitely ahead of the curve!
  • With regard to the federal requirement under the FLSA, the DOL provided some remarkably helpful guidance in a [url=]request for comment document last year.[/url] Lounges, anterooms, and locker rooms are specifically discussed in the document, as follows:

    "Locker rooms that function as changing rooms ([I]i.e.[/I], for changing in and out of uniforms) may also be adequate as long as there is a separate space designated within the room for expressing milk that is shielded from view and free from intrusion. The Department does not believe, however, that a locker room where there is not sufficient differentiation between the toilet area and the space reserved for expressing breast milk would meet the requirements of the law because it presents similar health and sanitation concerns as a bathroom. There is concern that locker rooms may not be appropriate because such wet environments are at risk of being contaminated with pathogenic bacteria and have been linked to outbreaks of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The Department would appreciate comments on whether and under what circumstances locker rooms could be compliant with the law."

    So it definitely sounds like the room itself is separate enough from the bathroom to serve as an excellent accommodation; however, there could be concerns over the dampness of the environment if the shower stall is used regularly, etc. As you can see from the Department's comments, even they are still trying to figure out the specifics of how employers may comply with the spirit and nature of this new law.

    However, since it is at least clear that the concerns related to locker rooms are limited to the sanitation of potentially wet environments, perhaps simply regular and thorough cleaning and sanitation of the area would be sufficient to keep your nursing accommodation reasonable.
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