We know that the Affordable Care Act of 2010 helped working moms who nurse and/or pump breast milk at work. Last month, the U.S. Department of Labor announced further protections that will begin in December and there’s a big piece of the protection that will help working mothers: we have the right to break time and we should receive a private space to pump milk that is not a restroom.
This shouldn’t be huge news, but we still celebrate it. The Affordable Care Act added the breastfeeding/pumping requirements into the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is the outline for workplace law in our country. As part of the requirements, employees who are able to receive overtime (under Federal law) are also able to get breaks and privacy for pumping.
The current rules affect most hourly workers as well as most salaried workers who earn less than $23,660 per year. The new rules offer protection to employees who earn less than $47,476 per year – which some advocates indicate bring more than 12.5 million workers under the new protection (citing The Economic Policy Institute).
Imagine that – statistics show us that using this calculation – more than three million of those 12.5 million workers are women of child-bearing age. This simple change can now help another three million moms provide the healthiest nutrition available for their babies.
We understand meeting these new standards will not be easy for all employers to quickly adjust to and we feel it is our place to enlighten and educate the employers of our rights and of their responsibilities. We encourage you to advocate for yourself and for other mothers in your workplace. Do not pump in a bathroom, do not pump where you do not have privacy, and do not delay pumping because you may risk lowering your supply. If you feel your employer is not meeting the accommodation requirements, kindly remind them that the Center for Worklife Law at the University of California (Hastings) issued a report recently that the number of employment discrimination lawsuits filed by lactating moms has increased more than 800% in the past ten years.
We also suggest you kindly remind them of the benefits they will receive by helping you continue to provide breastmilk for your baby. By allowing the adequate time and accommodations for a pumping mom, she is able to focus on her work more easily and can be more productive in her job function(s). This helps the company make money, but the benefits are not only financial. Statistics have shown for years that a baby who is nourished with breastmilk is healthier than a baby who receives formula. Fewer illnesses for an infant means less lost time from work for the mom. Nursing moms tend to recover quickly from illnesses and studies show they are less at risk for specific types of cancers, which allows for lower health care costs and better attendance records for the employees.
Even with all these concrete reasons to support a nursing mom, providing adequate time and space for her to pump is simply the right thing to do.