A shocking report was recently released detailing the horrific treatment of millions of breastfeeding mothers at work. Pregnant at Work, a Center for WorkLife Law initiative, commissioned a new study on breastfeeding workers and found that discrimination takes many forms, including:
--denying pumping break requests from employees who are in pain and leaking milk;
--firing them just for asking;
--refusing to provide privacy, leaving workers to pump milk with their breasts exposed to coworkers, clients, and the public, at times in physically unsafe conditions;
--commenting on their “tits,” comparing breastfeeding workers to animals, and mooing at them.
Although the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law requires employers to provide “non-exempt employees” basic accommodations for breastfeeding mothers at work – including time for women to express milk and a private space that is not a bathroom each time they need to pump – the group of women considered “exempt employees” are unintentionally left unprotected. This group totals 9 million+ women and includes such workers as teachers, RNs, NPs, transportation workers, computer programmers, software engineers, retail workers, traveling salespeople, and more. Even for the covered workers, technicalities make the law practically unenforceable, and it’s estimated that a total of 27.6 million women workers of childbearing age go without the basic protections needed to breastfeed.
Not surprisingly, discrimination is felt most acutely in male-dominated sectors such as the military, law enforcement, first responders, welding, etc. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the breastfeeding discrimination cases in the WorkLife Law database come from industries where there are more men than women, even though less than a third of women (30%) nationwide work in such industries. One U.S. Air Force Airman who needed pumping breaks was told she shouldn’t get time to “play with herself.” Pardon me?
This is just a sliver of the appalling results outlined in this study. I’m super lucky to have never had to endure anything close to what these women have experienced; my worst breastfeeding moment was when I had to pump in a bathroom at Bob Evans. The strength and determination of these women to continue breastfeeding despite the degrading and deplorable abuse at work is nothing short of heroic.
Check out the executive summary or (if you really want to get fired up) the full report here: https://www.pregnantatwork.org/breastfeeding-report-fullpage/
About Katie Stansberry
Katie Stansberry is a work-from-home mom of two sweet girls and the creator of Breastfeeding Bliss. After struggling at the beginning of her breastfeeding journey, she wanted to create a happy place where breastfeeding moms could find practical tips, positive inspiration, and the newest and best breastfeeding products. On her "Back to Bliss" breastfeeding blog, she shares her personal stories and tips for making breastfeeding an easier and more enjoyable experience.