Returning to work after having a baby is an emotionally difficult time for mothers — leaving one’s child behind is tough enough. But, then having to work out the logistics of nursing and pumping just adds to the complications. And, breastfeeding women have some protections at work through federal laws that require time throughout the day to pump and a space to do so, which does not include a bathroom. Even these simple accommodations make it easier for breastfeeding women to return to work.
However, a startling new report found that millions of women who believe they were covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are actually not, which is why breastfeeding discrimination is rampant in workplaces. Minnesota residents may be surprised to hear that these types of discrimination cases have risen by 800 percent in the last decade.
The report looks at breastfeeding cases over the last 10 years and discovered that more than 27 million female workers across the country lack the basic protections and guarantees required to breastfeed. This includes space to pump, break time during the day and specific protections based on the type of work being completed. For example, women occupied in an area regularly exposed to radiation would need to avoid exposure while breastfeeding.
In addition to this, the way the Break Time for Nursing Mothers has been drafted and attached to the original FLSA, millions of women have been excluded from the provision, including teachers and nurses — fields that are dominated by women. Where this is the case, state law has worked to fill in the gaps, with employers making accommodations for breastfeeding women.
Breastfeeding discrimination often leads to sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace as well. Even where legal protection is afforded, the culture of noncompliance has developed. Those who believe their rights have been violated or are being discriminated against should consider consulting an experienced attorney to discuss legal recourse.