Breastfeeding at work — most moms unaware of all rights
Breast pumps enable nursing moms to return to the workforce without having to give up on the practice, but most are not aware of all their breastfeeding rights in the workplace, and some believe they have no rights at all, according to a new survey.
The survey commissioned by Byram Healthcare finds 11% of working moms mistakenly believe they are entitled to zero protections related to expressing milk in the workplace. More than half (52%) do not know they are legally entitled to a private space, other than a toilet stall, to get this done. Forty-two percent are unaware this private space needs a lock, the survey finds.
Law states that employers must afford breastfeeding employees "reasonable break time" to express milk.
"The best thing a mom can do is, first, become knowledgeable. She needs to learn her own rights," said Shari Criso, a certified nurse midwife and lactation consultant based in New Jersey.
New Jersey's law does not enforce a time limit on the number of months or years a mother can continue to use the law after a child's birth. The break time, however, need not be paid.
An employer may be exempt from the law if it can be demonstrated that providing the accommodation would cause an undue hardship for the business.
According to the survey, 95% of working moms who breastfeed have used a breast pump. The majority said this tool enables their return to the workplace; a third said it gave them a chance to continue advancing their career.
But additional findings suggest employers and other employees may not be so comfortable with the newer rights of breastfeeding moms.
More than half of respondents said they had their hours cut and workload altered, not at their request. Many reported frustration or embarrassment while pumping/breastfeeding at work, such as someone walking in on them or making a rude comment.
"Every employee in the workplace needs to understand that this a protection for women," Criso said. "It's just another form of discrimination and harassment really."
Under New Jersey law, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee based on their breastfeeding status.
The survey follows another released by Byram Healthcare last year, which revealed that 82% of expectant mothers were unaware of benefits such as no-cost breast pumps and lactation consultant sessions.
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