At least a few internal offices at the Department of Justice have taken up policies to allow nursing mothers who work in the agency to be reimbursed for costs related to breastfeeding while on official travel.

The guidelines, issued late last month, are in line with travel regulations issued by the General Services Administration in 2021 that officially recognized that nursing and pumping as special needs eligible to be reimbursed.

The DOJ Gender Equality Network “is thrilled that Justice Department components, like the antitrust division, are helping parents care for their kids while staying in their government jobs,” said a board member of the organization, which represents the interest of 1,250 members, to Federal Times. “We urge all components to follow suit. This common-sense accommodation will strengthen the workforce and move us closer to gender equality.”

A spokesperson for GSA said it has heard anecdotally that this change for federal employees has been “very positive.” The agency said it has received some comments that employees feel this policy creates a more inclusive working environment for parents. Others have said this policy allows employees to keep breastfeeding whereas otherwise they would’ve had to stop.

The spokesperson also said agency representatives have been supportive of this guidance, which is meant to ensure federal employees should not have to choose between childcare and work.

“Employees who nurse and go on official travel orders face a physical challenge that other employees do not,” GSA’s bulletin said, explaining some of the hardships such employees may face. “Travel away from home usually requires the employee to be away from the child. While milk can be expressed beforehand and left for a caregiver, sometimes there is not enough to last the duration of the trip and milk must be safely stored and shipped back home.”

According to DOJ’s guidelines, reimbursable expenses may include per diem costs for a family member or caretaker who travels alongside an employee to watch a child in between the employee’s breaks, fees on excess baggage for nursing supplies, shipping expenses for refrigerated, pre-pumped milk, or early check-in or late check-outs at hotels.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department said that so far, the antitrust and civil rights divisions have issued their own guidelines affirming GSA’s recommendations.

DOJ GEN also said that the criminal division is basing its policies of that same original recommendation.

Generally, there are no absolute time limits for how long an employee may benefit from this accommodation.

According to federal employment data, women represent approximately 44% of the workforce.

Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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