How to Address Breastfeeding Discrimination from your Employer
Written by Cooper and Friedman on November 20, 2018
Women and specifically mothers make up a large part of the workforce. For a new mother, breastfeeding often plays an important part in the health of both herself and her child. However, nursing outside of the home often comes with its many trials and tribulations. For example, it is not uncommon for those who nurse on the job or in a public setting of any kind, to experience harassment and or discrimination as a result of doing so.
While there are several Federal laws in place to protect mothers from undergoing such mistreatment in the workplace, few are aware of their rights when it comes to nursing on the job. For example, Forbes recently revealed a scientific study showing that “only 40% of women had access to both break time and a private space — not a bathroom — for expressing milk, despite federal law requiring both of these.”
Federal Protection for Breastfeeding
The Affordable Care Act states that employers with at least 50 hourly employees are legally obligated to uphold the right of nursing mothers to pump on the job. This means that such an employee should be given enough time as reasonably needed to breastfeed for up to one year postpartum. Additionally, protected employees must be given a private place to lactate other than the bathroom.
However, these breaks do not have to be paid. Only if a paid break is used to breastfeed, does an employer have to compensate the employee. It should also be noted that this law does not cover employees on salary. State Protection for Breastfeeding
Depending on the state, additional protection against breastfeeding discrimination may be available to mothers in the workforce. For example, in Indiana, employers with only 25 employees are required to provide a private space other than the bathroom for a woman to breastfeed. They must also either have a cold storage space or allow the employee to provide their own mini refrigerator to safely store the milk.
While Kentucky doesn’t have any additional laws that specifically protect nursing women from discrimination in the workplace, they do have a statute that allows a mother to breastfeed in any public or private location without it being considered public indecency.
Pursuing a Breastfeeding Discrimination Lawsuit
Having to breastfeed in a place open to intrusions from co-workers can no doubt lead to a hostile work environment and or sexual harassment. Whatsmore, an employer who fails to meet or even communicate about a nursing mother’s workplace needs should be reported to the Department of Labor. Such a formal complaint should not result in employer retaliation as pregnant women are further protected on behalf of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978.
An amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII, the PDA effectively shields women from being discriminated against on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Therefore, pregnancy, childbirth, and or related medical conditions cannot be a contributing factor in an employment decision.
While most would consider lactation to be a related medical condition of childbirth, and thus covered by these pregnancy discrimination laws, it has been seen as a complex issue in the eye of the courts. A well-documented case is required in order to prove maltreatment.
If you or someone you love has been unfairly treated in the workforce due to pregnancy, there is legal help available. It’s important to consult with a law firm that understands the details involved in breastfeeding discrimination cases. The attorneys at the Cooper and Friedman law firm in Louisville, Kentucky, have over 45 combined years of experience defending the rights of people facing workplace discrimination. Contact us today at 502-459-7555 to speak with a discrimination lawyer about your case. We can help you stay protected in the workplace.