I was completely blown away when I read recently about a ruling by an Ohio court that the state’s law that protects pregnant women from workplace discrimination does not protect them from being punished for breastfeeding at work during unauthorized times. At the center of the case was a woman who was fired by her company for pumping at work during an unauthorized break. Her son was 5-month old at the time.
(Many other moms and bloggers are reacting to this — check out Leah’s awesome post over at Working (on) Motherhood.)
I am not a lawyer and won’t go into dissecting the actual case. I am sure the core of the case revolved around the fact that this woman took an unauthorized break and what she did during it has nothing to do with it — she broke the rules and there were implications. But I can’t help but think that in this case, the employer should have shown some more flexibility. After all, it’s not like she went shopping during the break.
The issue that this raises in my mind is the fact that while the government strongly promotes the benefits of breastfeeding and advocates for women to breastfeed as long as possible, we don’t have federal regulation that sets standards that companies have to follow when it comes to new moms. For example, new moms could be allotted more regular breaks during the day, so that if they are choosing to pump at work they have plenty of opportunities to do it. Or perhaps new moms can be allowed to take several unplanned breaks during the day so they could pump. Whatever it is, I am fairly certain that the government can do more to actually help moms who want to pump at work do it and the fact that it’s not the case makes me really angry.
It feels odd to write this and to suggest more government regulation in this area. I am generally not someone who loves more government or for the government to interfere with the way private enterprises run their business. But I feel strongly that we need more government regulation and standards when it comes to new moms, for everything from longer maternity leaves to making sure that moms who want to pump at work can do it without the fear of getting fired or reprimanded. Sure, there are some great companies who want to have happy employees and they take care of their new moms. I’ve worked for several of those. But there are also many that don’t care as much and women who work there, particularly if they are not in management positions, suffer the consequences.
OK, I’ll come off my soapbox now, but I’d like to know: Do you think new working moms who choose to pump at work should be given certain priviledges, such as extra breaks? Or should they be treated like any other employees?