Best Maternity Work Rights Attorney Answer: Is it illegal for my boss to refuse to provide additional break time to pump my breast milk? I returned to work from pregnancy leave and I need to pump breast milk, can I request space and extra time to express milk?
While many businesses, in an effort to attract the best talent, have gone the extra mile to provide nursing and expecting mothers with extra benefits such as longer maternity leaves and work from home benefits not required by law, studies by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and A Better Balance (ABB) pregnant workers face systemic discrimination on a regular occurrence.
One of the issues many new mothers face when returning to work is the ability to take additional breaks to pump breast milk. Many mothers in hourly jobs with scheduled break time face the issue of continuing to work or taking unpaid time throughout the day to express breast milk, which in turn would require them to take a decrease in pay.
As our employment discrimination attorneys previously blogged about, pregnancy and gender discrimination in relation to pregnancy related conditions are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and as amended, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (“PDA“). (See Pregnancy And Maternity Discrimination Excuses That Have Failed). While those acts certainly provide rights for nursing mothers to work free from discrimination, recent acts such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Obama Care) have amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA“) to provide additional protection. Under Section 7 of the FLSA, an employer is required to provide nursing mother employees with reasonable break time to express breast milk after the birth of her child. Not only are employers required to provide reasonable break time for pumping breast milk, they also have to provide a place, “other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” The only exception for the new provision under the FLSA is reserved for employers who have fifty or less employees and can show that “such requirements would impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.”
Let’s take the case of Heather Burgbacher, who was wrongfully terminated by Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen after she asked to express milk at work following giving birth. During Heather’s five years of employment, her employer gave her highly positive performance reviews. When Heather returned to work at Rocky Mountain Academy after she gave birth to her second child, she asked for a private place for her to express breast milk and help covering her classes for the 20 minutes that she need to pump milk three times each week. When Rocky Mountain Academy would not comply with her requests, she complained. Soon after Heather complained, she was told her annual employment contract would not be renewed.
Heather sued and the school settled for an undisclosed amount. Still, this boggles my mind. Why would employer want to alienate a top performing employee by not giving a temporary accommodation to a new mother? Worse yet, this employer is a school that is supposed to be shaping the minds of our young children! What message does this send to the female students about their future place in the American workforce? Our employment discrimination lawyers see this type of gender discrimination every day and we will never stop our fight against it.
If you are facing discrimination or harassment simply because you are pregnant or are returning to work after giving birth, protect your rights in the workplace — call the right attorney. Under federal and Ohio employment laws, employers cannot harass, fire, wrongfully terminate, discriminate against, demote, or wrongfully discipline a female employee just because she had a baby or want to express milk at work. When you call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation at 866-797-6040, you will meet with an attorney from Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm to discuss wrongful discrimination claims and help you determine the best way to pursue your gender/sex discrimination claims. Our pregnancy discrimination lawyers know your rights and will fight to protect them.
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