In 2010, Congress passed the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law. This law protects the rights of breastfeeding mothers in the workplace, but there are plenty of employers who haven’t gotten the message. Major financial ramifications might finally be changing this awareness.
Let mothers nurse – it’s the law.
Breastfeeding mothers provide their infants with nourishment. They come up against many challenges from society for their choice, sometimes from their employers.
As part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Break Time for Nursing Mothers amendment states the following:
- Employers must provide nursing working mothers with a private space to pump breast milk for one year after their baby’s birth.
- The private area must be a dedicated space that is shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.
- Employers must allow reasonable break times for nursing mothers for one year after their baby’s birth.
- Employers do not have to pay nursing mothers for these breaks. If paid breaks are used to pump, the employee must still be compensated.
- Large employers must always comply with these laws. Small businesses may be exempt from compliance.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act work in a nursing mother’s favor. The law prohibits employers from firing, harassing, or retaliating against workers for breastfeeding or pumping at work. Many states have established additional requirements and protections for breastfeeding mothers.
The trickle-down effect of breastfeeding discrimination
Pregnant at Work is an initiative of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. The Center for WorkLife Law issued a comprehensive report on breastfeeding discrimination. The report states over 9 million women of childbearing age are not covered by the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law because of a legal technicality.
Without the time and space to pump breast milk, a breastfeeding mother may not be able to produce adequate milk to meet her baby’s needs and force her to buy formula. A nursing mom without the opportunity to safely and fully pump runs the risk of developing painful breast infections, which can lead to missed work and paying for otherwise avoidable medical care.
Major Compensation for Nursing Mothers
If companies don’t follow the law and help employees who are nursing mothers, money matters might be enough to encourage them to adopt friendlier policies. Federal judges are now interpreting the law to prohibit breastfeeding as discrimination since it is a related condition of pregnancy and childbirth.
In Arizona, a paramedic named Carrie Ferrara Clark was told by the human resources manager at the City of Tucson Fire Department about her breastfeeding that “your pumping seems excessive to me.” The fire department’s scheduler told Clark that he didn’t believe she deserved any special accommodations for pumping.
So, Clark filed a lawsuit outlining that her employer retaliated against her by assigning her to fire stations that didn’t have space that complied with federal requirements for the expression of breast milk, and claiming that her employer violated the FLSA and Title VII. The payout was $3.8 million.
Shortly after this win, a Texas counseling company agreed to pay $22,000 in back wages and damages to a nursing mother who quit her job after being forced to pump breast milk in a public parking lot. A Department of Labor regional administrator said, “Forcing a nursing mother to express milk in a restroom or public is against the law.”
If you are a nursing mother working for an employer violating the Break Time for Nursing Mother law, find a civil rights lawyer to see if you have a civil rights violation case.