Life after having a baby is incredibly hectic. Between meeting the needs of an infant and trying to get enough sleep, parents already have plenty on their plates. Going back to work adds even more responsibilities, particularly for nursing mothers.
Unfortunately, too many women in this position face challenges created by violations of their rights.
What rights do nursing mothers have?
In Michigan, we have laws, including the Breastfeeding Antidiscrimination Act. Federal laws are also in place to protect lactating employees and ensure they have appropriate time and resources to safely and comfortably express milk.
Under these measures, lactating employees have the right to:
- Take reasonable break times
- Breastfeed/body feed in public
- Access a designated space to express milk, which typically means clean and convenient private rooms
- Be free from retaliation or harassment based on their status
These protections are crucial in keeping workers safe, healthy and comfortable. When employers or coworkers infringe on these rights, they can face legal action and financial penalties.
Woman sues in light of toxic environment
Recently, a woman filed a lawsuit against her former employer, Sun County Airlines. Among her numerous allegations are claims that the company launched a “relentless campaign of bullying, discrimination, and retaliation” against her for pumping breast milk on the job.
She alleges the following:
- She had to pump in view of others
- She could not access specific spaces
- The space she had to go to pump was inconvenient and added 20 minutes to her break time
- She did not have access to a working refrigerator to store milk
- Other workers became openly hostile toward her
This ongoing harassment and toxic work environment created so much stress that she felt she had no option other than to quit. She is suing for lost wages, mental anguish and other damages.
Protecting workers’ rights
It isn’t always easy to know whether unkind or unfavorable treatment at work rises to the level of rights violations, which is why legal guidance is often crucial in similar situations.
Documenting wrongdoing and offensive or unlawful exchanges is crucial for employees who feel their rights are under fire. Doing so can help build a claim and hold employers accountable.