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Should Breastfeeding Women Have Legal Protections in the Workplace?

Posted Sep 18 2009 10:05pm
CNN’s Campbell Brown, a breastfeeding mother, did a recent story about pumping breast milk at the workplace. She profiled a young mother who was fired after 20 days on the job. The woman says it was discrimination because she needed time to pump her breast milk on the job. She claims that her employer allowed other workers to take unscheduled breaks to go to the bathroom or go outside to smoke, but wouldn’t allow her to do the same so she could pump. And, though they allowed her time to breastfeed during lunch, it meant she had to go five hours without pumping (which caused her to become engorged) and she was told to pump in an unsanitary bathroom. Her employer says this isn’t a breastfeeding issue, and that she was fired for taking unauthorized breaks. Here’s a video of the story:

The young woman sued, and she lost. The Supreme Court of Ohio agreed with her employer that this case was merely about taking unscheduled breaks. They neglected to comment on the issue of breastfeeding in the workplace.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York is working to pass “The Breastfeeding Promotion Act,” which she says would protect breastfeeding mothers in the workplace under civil rights law and make it illegal for women to be fired or discriminated against for pumping during lunch or breaks. Employers would also be required to provide break time to pump and must make a reasonable effort to provide nursing moms with a private place for pumping. A tax credit for up to fifty percent of their related expenses would be awarded to employers for compliance.

Currently, twenty-four states have laws about pumping breast milk in the workplace. Do you think we need a national law to protect the rights of women who need to pump at work? After watching the video, do you agree or disagree with the court’s verdict? What experiences have you had with pumping in the workplace?

You can read the full story at

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