According to the Washington State Department of Health, about 95% of mothers choose to breastfeed their babies. When mothers return to work, they do not stop nursing their children and must pump breastmilk during their shifts.
Federal and state discrimination laws protect employees before, during and after pregnancy, including lactating and breastfeeding mothers.
Employees have the right to pump milk at work
State laws require employers to accommodate workers who must pump breastmilk at work. Some things employers must do are:
- Allow employees to take extended breaks to pump milk adequately
- Give mothers a clean and private place other than the bathroom to pump milk
- Adjust schedules or job positions to accommodate lactating mothers
- Allow mothers to pump milk at work for up to two years after childbirth
- Provide a cold location to store expressed milk
- Permit employees to take time off for medical visits related to breastfeeding and the health of their babies
Employers can not discriminate against employees for pumping milk
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act extends coverage of pregnancy discrimination laws to women after having their child. Breastfeeding and the need to pump milk fall under the “related medical conditions” of childbirth.
Employees may experience discrimination if any of the following situations occur at work:
- They get harassed about pumping or breastfeeding
- Their employer does not provide a private location to pump milk
- They get fired for pumping
- Their employers deny breaks for women who are uncomfortable or leaking milk
Understanding their rights when returning to work as new moms ensures women can continue providing nourishment for their babies.