DETROIT — Stellantis is adding more lactation rooms for nursing mothers at a Detroit-area assembly plant and adjusting its break policy after a Labor Department investigation found it had violated employees' rights.
The department said Wednesday it began investigating the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant after receiving a report that an employee was expressing breast milk on the factory floor after being unable to access a lactation room. The plant, which employs about 8,000 people, produces the Ram 1500 pickup.
Investigators found that the plant lacked adequate lactation rooms, forcing nursing mothers to either wait up to 20 minutes or express milk elsewhere, such as a community shower area. At the time of the investigation, the department said at least 19 nursing mothers shared access to four, one-person 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 department said in a news release. "The requirements prevented the employee from expressing milk when needed, a requirement of provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act."
President Joe Biden in December signed a law called the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, which amended the Fair Labor Standards Act. Under the PUMP Act, most nursing employees have the right to reasonable break time and a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view to express breast milk while at work. The right is available for up to one year after a child’s birth.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires companies to provide "a reasonable amount of break time so nursing mothers can express milk as frequently as needed."
"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," Timolin Mitchell, Detroit district director of the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division, said in a statement.
Stellantis said in a prepared statement: "Employee health and wellness is a top priority for Stellantis. We continually assess the need for additional dedicated lactation rooms in each of our locations. We are committed to providing a private, comfortable place for women to express milk."