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Breaks to express breast milk

Workers who need to express breast milk are protected in Oregon. Oregon employers must provide a reasonable rest period to express milk each time you have a need to do so.

This law protects hourly, salaried, and part-time workers until the child you are expressing milk for is 18 months of age.

Oregon employers must also make reasonable efforts to provide an appropriate location for you to express milk in private. That means a place other than a public restroom or toilet stall, close to your workstation, where you may express milk concealed from view and without intrusion.

Your employer must allow you to bring a cooler or other insulated container to store the expressed milk. If your employer allows workers to use a refrigerator onsite for personal use, you must be allowed (but may not be required by your employer) to use the available refrigeration to store your milk.

Employers with 10 or fewer employees may assert an exemption if providing these breaks imposes an “undue hardship.”

In addition, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant and lactating workers, those who have given birth to a child, and other related medical conditions. Learn more about pregnancy accommodations.

This law changed in 2019. Previously, the breaks to express milk were more limited. Now the frequency, timing, and length of these breaks will vary depending on the needs of the worker.

If you think your employer is violating this law, you can make a complaint or contact us to get help.

The law

ORS 653.077, OAR 839-020-0051

Frequently asked questions

For workers

How long must my employer give me additional rest breaks to express milk?

Your employer must allow you rest breaks to express milk at least until your child reaches 18 months of age.

How long is a “reasonable rest period”?

The frequency, timing and length of the breaks to express milk will likely vary according to your needs. The law is not very specific, which allows workers flexibility. If you aren’t getting the breaks you need, you can call us with questions 971-673-0761 or email help@boli.state.or.us.

Do I get paid for these breaks?

Oregon law does not require that you are paid for these breaks (unless they are your regularly scheduled paid breaks. The law encourages workers to take rest breaks to express milk at the same time as their regular rest and meal periods if possible, but it is not required. Your employer only needs to pay you during breaks for the expression of milk to the extent it overlaps with another paid break.

My employer says the breaks I need are an “undue hardship.” How do I know if that’s right?

My employer says the breaks I need are an “undue hardship.” How do I know if that’s right? Employers with ten or fewer employees are not required to provide these rest periods if doing so would impose an undue hardship. An “undue hardship” is defined as “significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature or structure of the employer’s business.” Employers with ten or fewer employees who do not provide additional rest periods for you to express milk should be prepared to prove that doing so would, in fact, create an undue hardship. If you think they are claiming this in error, please give us a call 971-673-0761 or email help@boli.state.or.us.

For employers

How long must an employer provide additional rest breaks for the expression of milk?

Employers must provide reasonable rest periods to accommodate an employee with a need to express milk for a child until the child reaches 18 months of age.

My employees get a paid 10-minute rest period. Does this mean I need to pay my employee for any additional time taken for the expression of milk?

No, although Oregon law still encourages employees to take rest breaks for the expression of milk at the same time as their regular rest and meal periods if feasible, the employer only needs to compensate a rest break for the expression of milk to the extent it overlaps with another paid break.

My employee does not want to work before or after a shift to make up the unpaid time for rest periods for the expression of milk. May I require the use of paid leave time?

No. As before, you certainly may allow the employee to work before or after the normal shift to make up the unpaid portion of the rest periods. If the employee does not make up the time, however, current rules prohibit you from requiring the use of paid leave time.

How do I know if I qualify for an undue hardship to the requirement to provide reasonable rest periods for the expression of milk?

Employers with ten or fewer employees are not required to provide these rest periods if doing so would impose an undue hardship. The statute defines an “undue hardship” as a “significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature or structure of the employer’s business.” This language tracks with existing rules and the language used to evaluate reasonable accommodations for disability. ORS 659A.121(2). Note, however, that this is not a bright line test, employers with ten or fewer employees who do not provide additional rest periods for the expression of milk should be prepared to prove that doing so would, in fact, create an undue hardship.

Do I need to make any alterations to my worksite for my employee to express milk?

Perhaps. Employers need to make “reasonable efforts” to provide the employee with a private location within close proximity to the employee’s work area to express milk. A “private location” is a place, other than a public restroom or toilet stall, in close proximity to the employee’s workstation, where the employee may express milk concealed from view and without intrusion by other employees or the public. By way of example, this could include minor modifications to an employee’s work area or perhaps adding a privacy lock to a nearby space, such as a room connected to a public restroom (like as a lounge); a child care facility; or an empty or unused office, conference room, or storage space. Note: Employers subject to federal law (50 or more employees) may not claim an undue hardship in regard to providing a private location which may not be a restroom or toilet stall for the expression of milk. Under Oregon law, an employer also must allow the employee to bring a cooler or other insulated container to store the expressed milk. If the employer allows employees to use a refrigerator onsite for personal use, the employee must be permitted (but may not be required by the employer) to use the available refrigeration to store the milk.



Disclaimer: This website is not intended as legal advice. Any responses to specific questions are based on the facts as we understand them and the law that was current when the responses were written. They are not intended to apply to any other situations. This communication is not an agency order. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney.​


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