Earlier this month, a Florida judge denied an attorney’s request to take short breaks every three hours to pump breast milk during a trial. As will come to no surprise to any mother with experience breastfeeding, the attorney requested the breaks both to avoid physical pain and to provide milk for her baby.
Under federal law, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide reasonable break time for employees to pump breast milk for one year after the child’s birth. In addition to providing mothers with the time to pump, employers are also required to provide a clean, private place (in other words not a bathroom) for employees to pump. This is a great law and employers covered by the federal law appear to be fairly compliant. But what about employers not covered by the federal law? What rights do their employees have? Right now in Iowa, the answer may be “not many.”
Our hope is that all employers will do the right thing and allow working mothers the time and a clean, private place to pump, even if the employer is not covered by the federal law. The benefits of breastfeeding are numerous and hardly debatable and we should encourage, not discourage, working mothers from providing nourishment for their babies when they are separated during the work day. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
As a breast feeding mom, I hear too many stories from other working moms whose employers have not accommodated requests for the time and a place to pump. In 2009, I helped draft and advocate for legislation that would have required nearly all Iowa employers to provide the same rights to breast feeding mothers as required by the federal law. We were unsuccessful then, but will keep trying . Until then, plaintiffs’ lawyers have to be creative in bringing claims on behalf of moms denied time to pump, for example by alleging claims of sex or pregnancy discrimination.
We’d like to hear from you. If you’re a breastfeeding mom, what have your work experiences been ? Has your employer been supportive? Have you had to fight for the right to pump at work?
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/21524179@N08/3200952475″>bottle three</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>