Stop Workplace Discrimination Against Breastfeeding Mothers

by Bettina Forbes, CLC | June 18, 2009 2:31 pm

Here is one of the biggest “booby-traps” that keeps nursing moms from meeting their personal breastfeeding goals and reaping the lifetime benefits of breastfeeding for themselves and their babies:

There is no unified national policy to protect breastfeeding mothers from being fired or discriminated against in the workplace. While 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have enacted various laws protecting breastfeeding mothers, those laws are not uniform and most are not comprehensive.  

Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Senator Jeff Merkley have introduced the Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 in Congress on June 11, 2009.  The Act (H.R.2819, S. 1244) includes five provisions:

1)  Amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect breastfeeding women from being fired or discriminated against in the workplace.

2) Provides tax incentives for businesses that establish private lactation areas in the workplace, or provide breastfeeding equipment or consultation services to their employees. 

3) Provides for a performance standard to ensure breast pumps are safe and effective.   Crappy pumps put an end to breastfeeding.

4) Allows breastfeeding equipment and consultation services to be tax deductible for families (amends Internal Revenue Code definition of “medical care”)  This is huge because lactation counseling services can be critical to helping moms and too often are not covered by health insurance.

5) Protects the privacy of breastfeeding mothers by ensuring they have break time and a private place to pump (for employers with 50 or more employees).   Consider that many employees are allowed smoking breaks but not pumping breaks, or have to pump in the bathroom or a broom closet!

Here’s an easy email tool from the United States Breastfeeding Committee that in 60 seconds allows you to enter your name and address including zip
code+4 and have the USBC send emails to the appropriate
representatives and senators asking them to co-sponsor the bill.
http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5162/t/6359/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=1697

In addition to Maloney and Merkley, 10 representatives and one senator are co-sponsoring the bill as of June 17, 2009: Reps. Capps, Olver, and Frank of Massachusetts, Reps. Roybal-Allard, Levin, and Meeks of New York, and Reps. Kaptur, Snyder, Schwartz, and Moran of Virginia, and Senator Gillibrand of New York  (the first breastfeeding congressperson in history).

On Martin Luther King Day, I wrote about how nursing moms are being discriminated against by cultural and institutional barriers.    If you think breastfeeding is not a big deal, or that because you succeeded with it that moms are “just not committed enough” (a phrase by the smug that just makes me really mad), then please read that post or the one I wrote for Mom’s Rising.   The reality is that moms are being urged (and sometimes not very nicely) to breastfeed at the same time that they are being set up to fail.   If you are tired of the lip service, here’s your chance to do something about it!!   Boy, wouldn’t it be nice if Hannah Rosin and The Atlantic had focused on publicizing the Breastfeeding Promotion Act instead of the Case Against Breastfeeding?

Thanks to Angela White of Breastfeeding 1-2-3 for motivating us bloggers to post about this momentous occasion!



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