Many women in California face significant barriers at work when they choose to breastfeed their babies. Too often, employers respond with hostility to requests for temporary reassignments or daily breaks to pump breast milk. University researchers who studied data collected across a decade found that two-thirds of workplace discrimination cases involving breastfeeding mothers resulted in job loss.
The report published by the Nursing Mothers Law Project detailed how breastfeeding employees frequently endured denial of breaks, refusal to provide a private and clean area to pump milk and sexual harassment. Employers in many cases gave no consideration to the painful infections women might develop if they did not pump milk regularly. Workplaces hostile to nursing mothers also caused some women to wean their children from breast milk earlier than health guidelines recommend.
Discrimination also took the form of reducing workers’ hours or refusing to pay them during their pumping breaks. According to the study, sexual harassment sometimes was a part of the problem when co-workers started talking about women’s breasts.
The researchers suggested that legislatures strengthen laws that protect breastfeeding employees and remove exceptions for some employers. A person being mistreated because of breastfeeding or other types of workplace discriminationcould talk to an attorney. Information about employment law could prepare a person to file a formal complaint or take legal action. An attorney might manage the communications with the employer prior to filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or applicable state agency, which could result in a formal lawsuit.