STERLING HEIGHTS, MI – After the U.S. Department of Labor found a Stellantis’ auto plant in Sterling Heights violated the rights of nursing mothers employed there, the global manufacturer of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles, will create additional lactation rooms and correct its break policy to avoid future violations.
Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division responded to an allegation that a plant employee was expressing breast milk on the factory floor after being denied access to the assembly plant’s lactation rooms. They also learned of Stellantis’ improper policy of requiring nursing mothers to submit a doctor’s note and the baby’s birth certificate to access lactation rooms. The requirements prevented the employee from expressing milk when needed, a requirement of provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In addition, division investigators found the Stellantis plant lacked adequate lactation rooms, forcing nursing mothers to wait up to 20 minutes for an available room or otherwise express milk elsewhere, such as the community shower area. At the time of the investigation, a minimum of 19 nursing mothers shared access to four, one-person lactation rooms.
“The outcome of this investigation, and Stellantis’ changes at its Sterling Heights assembly plant will have a significant impact on current and future nursing mothers by removing barriers that make it difficult to balance their child’s nutritional needs with their workplace duties,” said Wage and Hour Division Director Timolin Mitchell in Detroit.
By law, employers must provide a reasonable amount of break time so the nursing mother can express milk as frequently as needed. They must also provide a location that functions as a space for that purpose. If the space is not solely dedicated for use by nursing mothers, it must be available whenever needed, and be shielded from view and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public.
On Feb. 2, 2023, the division announced the launch of an effort to alert families throughout the nation of changes in federal law that now extend the rights to pump breastmilk at work to more women, including those employed as teachers, farmworkers and care workers.
The newly enacted Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act extends the rights of nursing mothers to have time and a private space to pump breastmilk at work. Under the PUMP Act, more workers in more industries are now protected by this provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The new protections also expand remedies available to these workers if their employers do not comply with the law.
Part of the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Spending Bill, the PUMP Act aligns with the Biden-Harris administration’s Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, a whole-of-government approach to combatting maternal mortality and morbidity. Research shows women of color and women in rural communities suffer significantly higher rates of maternal mortality and morbidity than their white and urban counterparts.
“Women make up about 43 percent of the workforce. Removing barriers to employment, such an inability to care for their newborn’s needs, are essential to keeping women in the workforce, a critical effort for the nation’s families,” Mitchell added. “Good-paying jobs that accommodate the needs of all workers make our national economy stronger.”
Stellantis N.V. operates the Sterling Heights assembly plant where about 8,000 people are employed by the company. The company is one of the world’s leading automakers under the Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Maserati, and Peugeot brands, and operates in more than 130 markets globally.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).
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