Breastfeeding Rights in New Jersey
At last, the law is catching up to human reality. Why has it taken so long for people to get it?
Mammals have babies that need to eat.
Human women need to feed their children.
It happens. And now, at last, we’re “getting used to it.” Let’s take a look at your breastfeeding rights in New Jersey.
Why Is Breastfeeding Important?
Breastfeeding is instrumental in the first six months of a newborn baby’s life. Breast milk contains helpful cells, hormones, and antibodies that protect babies from illness (asthma, childhood leukemia, childhood obesity, ear infections, eczema, diarrhea and vomiting, lower respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome, and type 2 diabetes). Alternatives aren’t up to the task, and carry risks that breast milk doesn’t.
Breastfeeding is important for mom, as well. By breastfeeding, a mother reduces her risk of type 2 diabetes, certain types of breast cancer, and ovarian cancer. Moreover, the closeness between the mother and newborn helps the mother by boosting certain hormones that can calm her following pregnancy, and aid in avoiding post-partum depression.
Breastfeeding also benefits society as a whole. Research shows that if 90% of families’ breastfed exclusively for six months, nearly 1,000 deaths among infants could be prevented each year. Medical costs may be lower for fully breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants. Breastfed infants usually need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations. Mothers who breastfeed may miss less work to care for sick infants than mothers who feed their infant’s formula. Employer medical costs may also be lower. Formula cans and bottle supplies create more trash and plastic waste. Breast milk is a renewable resource that comes packaged and warmed.
Finally, Breastfeeding can be lifesaving. During an emergency, such as a natural disaster, breastfeeding protects your baby from the risks of an unclean water supply, can help protect your baby against respiratory illnesses and diarrhea, helps to keep your baby’s body temperature from dropping too low because the milk is always at the right temperature for your baby, and a mother’s milk is always available without needing other supplies.
Can I Breastfeed in Public?
Despite all of the above, some moms still suffer those whose ignorance of the law (and common sense, as well as how to be a decent human being) prompts them to put barriers in the way of one of the most natural acts in mammalian evolution.
Currently, all 50 states have enacted legislation that provides protection for public breastfeeding. Since 1997, New Jersey has allowed for a mother to breast feed her baby “in any location of a place of public accommodation, resort or amusement wherein the mother is otherwise permitted.” The law was passed because of “the social constraints of modern society impede a woman’s choice to breast feed due to embarrassment, fear of criminal prosecution and the lack of public acceptance” To fight these “social constraints,” the New Jersey Legislature passed the public breastfeeding law “to achieve a healthy start on life.” Violations of this law, however, cannot be redressed in a private lawsuit; they’re only enforceable by the State.
Yet the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) does allow such a claim, when a mom is impaired, harassed or discriminated against for breastfeeding in a public place. A violation of this law can be remedied by a private lawsuit, providing for damages and attorney’s fees from the offender.
A mom, of course, can’t turn her body on and off like a light switch. Naturally, even without a newborn around, a mother will continue to produce breast milk that will need to be expressed and saved for later. This situation most often occurs when mothers return to work following maternity leave.
On January 18, 2018, the New Jersey LAD was amended to include breastfeeding moms as a protected class. The LAD applies to all New Jersey employees. The statute makes it unlawful to discriminate or retaliate against an employee that the employer knows, or should know, is either breastfeeding or expressing milk for her infant child. The law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to nursing women, unless it would result in an undue hardship to the employer, and specifically requires employers to provide:
- Reasonable break time each day for the employee to express breast milk for her child, and;
- A suitable location with privacy, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the work area for the employee to express breast milk for her child.
The LAD also provides that breastfeeding employees are entitled to paid or unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation, in the same manner as “provided to other employees not affected by pregnancy or breastfeeding but similar in their ability or inability to work.” While the Amendment does not provide an express right to leave, it requires employers to treat such a leave request as they would any other request for leave.
Finally, these protections are also not subject to any set timeline; instead, the LAD’s protections apply while a mother is “breast feeding her infant child.” The term, “infant child” is also not defined by the Amendment.
Protection for breastfeeding while at work also is provided for by federal laws. Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to define the phrases “because of sex” and “on the basis of sex” to include action taken “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”
What Should I Do if Someone Hassles Me for Breastfeeding or Taking Time to Express?
Whether this happens at work were in a public place, whether it’s just someone harassing you over it, or actively seeking to stop you are punished you for it, call the experienced trial attorneys a Costello & Mains for a free telephone conversation. If we think we can help you, will bring you in for a free in-person meeting. All representation is contingent, meaning that there is no fee unless we succeed.