Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) June 9, 2015 - It is against the law for a business to discriminate against someone who is pregnant. Further, breastfeeding is an integral part of pregnancy and breastfeeding in public is legal. Yet women who breastfeed in many establishments face discrimination.
“Breastfeeding in public is legal. Period. However, the act itself seems to disturb some if the mother chooses not to cover up while in public. This has often resulted in a manager asking the woman to cover up, move into a bathroom, or leave the place of business. This is illegal in every state,” states Timothy Coffey, a noted Chicago employment attorney.
Laws relating to pregnant women are clear; they must not face discrimination in the workplace. Still, there are many companies in the U.S. that in some form or another, do just that, act in a discriminatory manner. The latest addition to the pregnancy debate is the issue of breastfeeding in public. Over a period of time there have been many recent changes to the laws relating to lactation and breastfeeding, particularly in a public place.
Recent laws have not forbidden feeding a baby in public, but rather expressly allow the natural gesture. The issue seems to be that many business managers do not understand the law and in either failing to understand it or outright ignoring it, they violate the law. However, it seems there are more incidents these days in public places where women feeding a baby are being asked to stop. “The power of choice is in play in these instances,” adds Coffey. “Business managers may choose to learn the law and thus not run afoul of it, and yet, many apparently do not.”
Another workplace issue gaining more prominence these days is that of expressing milk at work. It is considered to be medically necessary to avoid mastitis. Approximately 44 states have laws about breastfeeding in public, but only 24 have laws relating to pumping in the workplace.
Other states actually provide more protection than specified federally. Those states include Wyoming, Washington, Virginia, Cermont, Texas, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Puerto Rico, Oregon, Oklahome, North Dakota, New York, New Mexico, Montana, Mississippe, Minnesota, Maine, Indiana, Illinoise, Hawaii, Georgia, D.C. Connecticut, Colorado, California, and Arkansas.
Notably, there was not much in the way of protection in the workplace for lactating mothers until 2010 when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act brought in the concept of a “reasonable break time.” The time period allowed is only to pump the milk and not to feed a child under one year of age.
In other states, mothers lactating could be fired for doing it during work hours. However, that attitude is rapidly changing due to the intense media scrutiny and many mothers who are more aware of their rights when it comes to pregnancy, breastfeeding and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. (PDA) Additionally, under Title VII and the PDA, firing a lactating woman expressing milk is unlawful sex discrimination.
“It is important to note that until 2013, many lower courts held lactation was not protected under the PDA (1978). However, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit delivered a unanimous decision that it was protected,” Coffey added.
The laws under the auspices of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) relating to break time for nursing mothers in the workplace may be found here In general those rules state that employers are mandated to provide reasonable break time to express breast milk for 1 year after birth, as often as the working mother needs to perform that task. Workers must have a location (not a bathroom) where others will not intrude.
The Law Says:
To find out specifically what states offer various protections relating to breastfeeding, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures and search for breastfeeding laws.
THE COFFEY LAW OFFICE, P.C.
351 W. Hubbard Street, Suite 602
Chicago, IL 60654