Most women already know that pregnancy is a protected medical condition under federal law. Although many employers still do discriminate against pregnant workers, they violate federal and state law by doing so. Women who look physically pregnant may have a harder time getting a job and they also face discrimination from their bosses and co-workers.
However, the potential for discrimination doesn’t end when your baby is born. Many employers also fail to properly accommodate mothers who are breastfeeding or pumping breast milk for their child. Familiarizing yourself with your rights as an employed lactating mother under federal law can help you assert yourself to your employer if they don’t take adequate steps to accommodate you.
You have the right to pump and the right to privacy
Whether your employer provides in-office childcare or you live close enough to work that your nanny or babysitter can bring your infant into work, you can ask for reasonable breaks when you need to breastfeed. Alternately, if you are pumping milk while at work, your employer should give you breaks to continue pumping and maintain a supply of milk for adequate milk production.
Breast milk is important to the health and well-being of babies. Mothers who are able to produce enough to provide for their children should be given every opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, many employers do not want to provide their employees with the time or space required to deal with lactation. That could mean not giving breaks or not giving you space.
You have the right to privacy while nursing or pumping. That means that you should have a space that no other employees have access to. This could be a break room or an unused office. However, it may not be the bathroom. Your employer cannot force you to nurse or pump in a bathroom space.
Also, while your employer must give you time to pump or breastfeed, it is not required that they give you paid breaks to do so. They may require that you do so on your existing lunch breaks or insist that you take unpaid time off each day while you pump.
Stand up not just for yourself but for the other women at your work
Pushing for your employer to recognize your right to breastfeed isn’t just about you as a mother. It is also about every other woman who currently works for your company or will take a job there someday in the future.
Standing up for your rights helps ensure that you don’t end up losing your job or suffering from damage to your career because of someone’s unnecessary prejudice and biases against women who have children.
It also helps make your place of employment more equitable and fair for future employees and existing staff. Talking with an experienced New Jersey workplace discrimination attorney can help you decide if legal action makes sense in your situation.