- 6.800.4 IRS Nursing Mothers Program
- 6.800.4.1 Program Scope
- 6.800.4.1.1 Background
- 6.800.4.1.2 Authority
- 6.800.4.1.3 Responsibilities
- 6.800.4.1.4 Program Objectives and Review
- 6.800.4.1.5 Terms/Definitions/Acronyms
- 6.800.4.1.6 Related Resources
- 6.800.4.2 Participation
- 6.800.4.3 Breaks
- 6.800.4.4 Workforce Flexibilities
- 6.800.4.5 Designated Lactation Room
- 6.800.4.6 Scheduling of the Lactation/Conference Room
Part 6. Human Resources Management
Chapter 800. 0 Employee Benefits
Section 4. IRS Nursing Mothers Program
March 31, 2017
(1) This transmits revised IRM 6.800.4, IRS Nursing Mothers Program.
(1) This IRM 6.800.4 contains editorial changes throughout the IRM.
(2) Added information involving the applicable Internal Controls sections of this Program related IRM, according to IMD Program Requirements in IRM 220.127.116.11, IRM Process-Program Scope & Objectives.
Debra A. Popoli
Director, WorkLife, Benefits and Performance Division
This IRM provides policy and guidance on the IRS Nursing Mothers Program.
Purpose: It provides the legal basis and administrative oversight of the Program. It further provides definitions of unique terms associated with the Nursing Mothers Program.
Audience: All nursing mothers and their managers.
Policy Owner: Human Capital Officer, Director, Worklife Benefits and Performance Division
Program Owner: Associate Director, Worklife Recognition and Leave Sharing Branch, Worklife and Wellness Program
Primary Stakeholders: Workforce Relations Division and Agency-wide Shared Services.
IRM 6.800.4 provides Servicewide policy for a supportive environment to enable nursing mothers to express her milk during business hours. This IRM must be read and interpreted in accordance with pertinent law and government regulations.
On December 20, 2010, President Obama delegated authority to 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 delegation is in support of Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (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 USC 207).
Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that amended the FLSA became effective on March 23, 2010. The amendment requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a private room that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public for nursing mothers to express breast milk during the workday.
Consistent with the requirements of section 4207 of the Act, Federal agencies should provide a reasonable break time for a civilian employee, in the executive branch, to express breast milk for her nursing child for eighteen (18) months after the child's birth each time the employee has a need to express milk.
Participants in the Program must:
Schedule the lactation/conference rooms for their lactation breaks;
Maintain the cleanliness of the lactation/conference room;
Store all expressed milk in closed (and preferably labeled) containers, which must be taken home daily;
Be responsible for locking the door of the lactation/conference room while expressing milk;
Notify the Employer when they decide to terminate participation in the Program by sending an email to *HCO Health Services; and
Request hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes by submitting an ERC ticket to FMSS through OS GetServices. Include the lactation/conference room number and building on the ERC ticket.
Each manager of a participant shall:
Follow the guidance in the IRS-NTEU Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the negotiated agreement concerning breaks and work schedule flexibilities when a participant needs to express milk;
If necessary contact OS GetServices by computer or by calling ERC at 1-866-743-5748 on the employee’s behalf, to help the employee enroll into the Program;
Follow appropriate guidelines for obtaining supplies (hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes); and
Contact *HCO Health Services with questions about the Program.
Program Goals: To provide a supportive environment to enable nursing mothers to express milk during business hours.
Program Reports: Nursing Mother participant spreadsheet found on the Nursing Mothers SharePoint site. The primary purpose of the spreadsheet is to document participants, the enrollment date and the unenrollment date.
Program Effectiveness: The program goals are measured through an optional survey that is sent once a participant no longer has the need to participate in the program.
Annual Review: This section is subject to revision as the Nursing Mothers Program parameters are amended periodically and as the IRS procedures are changed.
Nursing Mother – A mother who is breast-feeding her baby.
Expectant Mother – A woman expecting the birth of a child.
Maternity Leave – A period of absence from work, granted to a mother before and after the birth of her child.
Lactation Room – A private room that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, for mothers to express breast milk.
All employees who identify themselves as nursing mothers are eligible for this Program, regardless of a part-time, seasonal, or full-time work status.
An employee is eligible to participate in the Program for 18 months following the birth of her child. Consistent with an employee’s state law, an employee’s request to continue in the Program longer than 18 months after the birth of her child should not be unreasonably denied by the IRS.
A mother or expectant mother should enroll in the Program as soon as practicable, even prior to going on maternity leave, if possible. The earlier the mother or expectant mother identifies herself, the sooner the lactation room negotiations may begin, if applicable.
Any employee who wants to participate in the Program must enroll by submitting an ERC ticket by computer, by calling 1-866-743-5748, or by requesting her designee or manager to submit an ERC ticket on her behalf.
Upon registering for the Program, a participant meeting the eligibility requirements of being a nursing mother or expectant mother will be deemed to be enrolled in the Program and will receive within three (3) workdays, an electronic informational packet including:
A link to an electronically-recorded information session;
The IRS Nursing Mother Memorandum of Understanding (MOU);
The Nursing Mothers Program IRM;
Guidance on how to request hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and the anticipated refill date;
Other related materials; and
Intranet links to other resources.
Consistent with workload and staffing needs, participants in the Nursing Mothers Program will be given a reasonable amount of time to view all materials provided. Employees who do not use a computer as a part of her job duties will be given access to a computer in accordance with negotiated agreement to review the materials, if needed.
During an employee’s participation in the Program, she should elevate any concerns by submitting an ERC ticket. For concerns requiring immediate attention, the employee must raise the issue to her manager for resolution. The Employer will make reasonable efforts to address the issues demanding immediate attention within one workday of notification of the issue. In the event that a concern requiring immediate attention is not resolved within one workday, the employee may contact the Post of Duty (POD) Administrative Officer or Senior Commissioner's Representative (SCR), as appropriate, and the Program manager for resolution. Contact information for these representatives will be on the IRS Nursing Mothers Program web page.
For the first two years following the implementation of this Program, the employee will be provided with electronic access to a voluntary exit questionnaire along with her introductory documents to the Program. The questionnaire will give the participants the opportunity to provide feedback, suggestions for improvement, and any problems or challenges experienced in using the Program. Per the negotiated agreement, the employee will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the exit questionnaire.
Paper copies of the exit questionnaire will be provided to employees who do not use a computer as a part of her job duties.
As a part of the exit questionnaire, the employee will be given the opportunity to indicate if she would like the Union to receive a copy of her exit questionnaire. If so, there will be a spot for her to indicate her applicable chapter number, business unit and city/state of her POD.
Upon request and with the chapter’s assistance in determining its jurisdiction, the Employer will provide a copy of the completed exit questionnaires for bargaining unit Program participants within its jurisdiction to the applicable local NTEU chapter.
A nursing mother employee will be provided a reasonable amount of break time to express milk as frequently as needed. The frequency and duration of breaks may vary among participants. Thus, the IRS has determined that a nursing mother’s request for a reasonable amount of break time may not be denied.
Normally, an employee will be released at the time she requests a break. If staffing and workload requirements prevent management from releasing the employee at the requested time, then management will release the employee at the earliest opportunity after the request is made, normally within one hour of the requested time. If management determines that the request will not be granted within one hour, management will provide the employee the reason(s) for the denial in writing. Grievances over any denial of a requested break by a participant will be initiated at Step 2 of the Uniform Employee Grievance Procedure set forth in the negotiated agreement (See also IRM 6.771.1, Agency Grievance System - Agency Grievance).
Management must make reasonable efforts to grant requests to use annual leave, leave without pay (LWOP), previously earned compensatory time off, previously earned credit hours, or to extend a tour of duty (TOD), in accordance with section 6.800.4.7, Workforce Flexibilities, below, to account for reasonable breaks taken by the nursing mother to express milk.
Breaks are not compensated unless the employee is entitled to a compensated break, per law, regulation, or the negotiated agreement, in which case the employee can use any compensated break to express milk in the designated location.
Within twelve (12) months of the birth of the child, an employee may request to use LWOP or annual leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to express milk.
Management may approve requests for changes to Alternate Work Schedules (AWS) for a nursing mother who needs time off to express milk during normal working hours. To the extent possible, management may permit nursing mothers to use current workforce flexibilities, to include annual leave, LWOP, the earning and use of compensatory time off, and/or credit hours.
Participation in the Program should not affect an employee’s eligibility to remain on her current AWS, whether it is a Flexible Work Schedule (FWS), or a Compressed Work Schedule (CWS), and/or her ability to earn or use credit hours or compensatory time off.
Pursuant to the negotiated agreement, a participant on an FWS (Flexitour with Credit Hours, Maxiflex, or Gliding) can request to use previously earned credit hours during her tour of duty (TOD) to take breaks to express milk. A participant on an FWS may also request to earn credit hours before or after her TOD to accommodate for the use of previously earned credit hours for the lactation breaks taken throughout another day. Employees on an FWS also have the option to use previously earned compensatory time off (earned in accordance with applicable law, regulation, and policy) for lactation breaks.
Employees must first earn credit hours before they can use them. Therefore, a nursing mother can only use previously earned credit hours for her breaks taken on another workday.
For example, a nursing mother on an FWS (with a 1-hour accumulated credit hour balance) who works a TOD of 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with a 1-hour unpaid lunch can request two 30-minutes credit hour periods during the day to express milk. At the end of her TOD, this employee could with prior managerial approval, earn one credit hour from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. This would give the employee a 1-hour accumulated credit hour balance when she begins her next workday.
Nursing mothers on a CWS (5/4-9 or 4/10) are not eligible to earn or use credit hours. However, employees on a CWS, may use previously earned compensatory time off (earned in accordance with applicable law, regulation, and policy) for lactation breaks.
With prior managerial approval, a participant may request a 1-hour unpaid lunch or meal period. The 1-hour unpaid lunch or meal period may be used for the employee’s lunch or meal period and/or unpaid lactation breaks. The aforementioned unpaid lunch or meal periods and unpaid lactation breaks, which may total up to 1-hour, do not have to be taken at a specific time during the TOD, even though they are considered part of the employee’s daily lunch or meal period. The timeframe may be split up into one 30-minute unpaid lunch or meal period and one 30-minute lactation break, or one 30-minute unpaid lunch or meal period and two 15-minute unpaid lactation breaks to accommodate for the lactation time taken throughout the employee’s TOD. An unpaid lunch or meal period, or the additional unpaid breaks comprised of the lunch or meal period, may not be combined with a paid break. All denials are subject to the parties’ grievance procedure, in the negotiated agreement.
For more information on breaks, AWS, or credit hours, see IRM 6.610.1IRS Hours of Duty. For information on compensatory time off see IRM 6.550.1, Pay Administration. For information on annual leave, LWOP, or FMLA, see IRM 6.630.1, Absence and Leave. While employees may not use sick leave for breaks for nursing mothers, information on sick leave for the birth and care of child may be found in IRM 6.630.1.
The Employer will designate a room in an existing IRS-controlled space as needed in each POD when the first employee in that POD identifies herself and becomes a participant in the Program. The lactation room may be used as a conference room when not being used by a nursing mother. Should the number of nursing mothers in a POD rise to a level at which another room is needed to accommodate multiple nursing mothers, the IRS will designate an additional room, which complies with the terms of the MOU, for the time necessary. In the event there is no nursing mother identified at a POD, the room will return to its original use. As soon as a new nursing mother in that POD has identified herself; then, the room is designated as a conference/lactation room again.
In each POD with a health clinic, the designated lactation room will be inside the clinic. In the event that an employee or the Union raises a concern that the health clinic room does not contain the equipment, is inconsistent with this IRM, or is inappropriate for use by nursing mothers, the employee or Union will submit an ERC ticket designating the issue as a health and safety concern. While the IRS investigates the concern, it will designate an alternate location for nursing mothers to use.
The designated room or space in the health clinic will be cleaned regularly with the same level of service as other office rooms receive and generally be equipped with at least the following IRS provided equipment:
A comfortable chair;
One small refrigerator;
One trash can; and
The designated room shall be a private space shielded from view and free from intrusion by the public or fellow coworkers. The room:
Will be either a designated room or within a POD’s health clinic; and
Will not be a bathroom.
The designated room will be able to lock from the inside.
Program participants will be given priority with regard to reserving space in the designated lactation room. Program participants will follow the scheduling procedures for her POD or health clinic, when possible.
Nursing Mothers Program participants will be given priority to reserve the designated lactation room. Priority means the Program participants can (and should) schedule her breaks in advance and that another IRS employee, including another Program participant, cannot trump, modify or cancel the Program participant’s previously scheduled room reservation. Priority does not mean that the Program participant may turn away another nursing mother participant who properly scheduled time in the room if she changes her regularly scheduled break time.
In small PODs where there is one conference room, there may be rare circumstances in which the Employer may need the conference room for a meeting on short notice; in such situations, the Employer will provide the nursing mother an alternative, temporary room, which at a minimum, complies with the guidelines of the Program.
A Program participant may request a change in her regularly scheduled breaks. In the event that the designated conference/lactation room is unavailable, the Employer will make reasonable efforts to find an alternative, available room that complies with the MOU; this alternative room will not be required to have a refrigerator.
In the event that there are multiple Program participants in the same POD, they will be able to schedule use of the lactation room on a first come, first serve basis.
In the event, there is a concern with enforcement of priority or another issue regarding the scheduling and use of the room, the employee should report the issue to her manager. If the concern is not addressed within one workday, the employee may contact the POD’s Administrative Officer or SCR, as appropriate, and the Program’s Program manager for resolution. Contact information for these representatives will be on the IRS Nursing Mothers Program web page.
Each Program participant will be given her own copy of a letter, which provides Program participants with the basic rules to follow for using a designated lactation room, including the priority scheduling for Program participants. In addition, the letter will be posted to the IRS Nursing Mothers and ERC Nursing Mothers web pages.
Where the designated lactation room uses a digital scheduling Program, it will be used for scheduling the designated lactation room. As for scheduling where the lactation room is within the health clinic, the Program participant will schedule time in the lactation room with the health clinic nurse.