Roughly 75% of women entering the workplace will, at some point, be employed and pregnant. Over half of all women who gave birth in 2011 where in the workplace. One out of every four mothers in America return to work just 10 days after giving birth. Given these statistics, it is clear that the rights of women to breastfeed or express breast milk at work is an important one.
Connecticut law requires employers to make a reasonable effort to provide a place where mothers can breastfeed or express milk in private. The place cannot be a bathroom.
Conn. Gen. Stat Sec. 31-40w provides for mothers to express or breastfeed in the workplace as follows:
- Any employee may, at her discretion, express breast milk or breastfeed on site at her workplace during her meal or break period.
- An employer shall make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, in close proximity to the work area, other than a toilet stall, where the employee can express her milk in private.
- An employer shall not discriminate against, discipline or take any adverse employment action against any employee because such employee has elected to exercise her rights under subsection (a) of this section.
- As used in this section, “employer” means a person engaged in business who has one or more employees, including the state and any political subdivision of the state; “employee” means any person engaged in service to an employer in the business of the employer; “reasonable efforts” means any effort that would not impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business; and “undue hardship” means any action that requires significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to factors such as the size of the business, its financial resources and the nature and structure of its operation.
Unfortunately, despite laws such as this, discrimination in this area remains a sad reality in America’s workplaces. In a recently decided case in the United States District Court of Delaware, the jury awarded a woman 1.5 million dollars in damages for her employer making it impossible for her to pump breast milk as often as needed which ultimately caused her supply of milk to dry up. The jury held the employer liable for gender discrimination and a hostile work environment where the employee was only allowed to pump once during each 10 hour training shift, instead of every two hours as recommended, in an office where there were windows and surveillance cameras which they refused to turn off. Eventually, the employee ended up pumping in the bathroom