Women were told to pump in their manager’s office or a meeting room without locks, where they were walked in on repeatedly. Many had to pump in view of security cameras. In two separate cases, restaurant workers were instructed to pump behind the bread racks, leaving them partly visible to colleagues and customers.
Those who do find an appropriate space often don’t receive the time they need to fully empty their breasts. A McDonald’s worker was yelled at and ordered to return to work before she was done pumping. A Family Dollar worker asked for more time to pump and got demoted to part-time. A spa employee was required to sign a piece of paper agreeing that she wouldn’t take any more breaks. Her inability to pump caused her to leak milk from her breasts while she worked.
These are just a few of the stories of discrimination against lactating moms the Huffington Post recently shared. These employers are likely violating both Title VII (which would prohibit employers from denying breaks to these moms while granting breaks to others), and the Affordable Care Act (which specifically requires employers to provide lactation breaks).
Lactation discrimination is easy to avoid. The Affordable Care Act requires all companies to accommodate the need of new mom’s to pump at work.
– Employers must provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.”
– The frequency and duration of each break will likely vary from employee to employee, and employers must provide breaks as frequently as needed by the nursing mother.
– Employers must provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” A bathroom, even if private, is not allowed. The location must be functional as a space for expressing breast milk. If the space is not dedicated to the nursing mother’s use, it must be available when needed. A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space is shielded from view, and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public.
– Employers with less than 50 employees are not subject to this break time requirement if compliance would impose an undue hardship (defined as the difficulty or expense of compliance for a specific employer in comparison to the size, financial resources, nature, and structure of the employer’s business). However, because of the difficulty of proving this defense, small employers should tread very carefully if denying an accommodation for this reason.
– Employers are not required to compensate nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk. However, where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time.
Easy. Unpaid breaks in a private space. So why are so many employers appearing to get this so wrong?
This post originally appeared on the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, and was written by Jon Hyman, Partner, Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis. Jon can be reached at via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, via telephone at 216-831-0042, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter.