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Breast-feeding workers often face discrimination

Many breast-feeding employees complain about the accommodations they are offered. The rooms are often not suitable and usually inconvenient. However, it gets worse. A new study finds that two-thirds of breast-feeding employees have faced some form of discrimination in the last decade that has led to losing their jobs.

Common forms of discrimination include:

  • Denying break requests from breast-feeding employees
  • Refusing to provide privacy for employees who need to pump breast milk
  • Sexual harassment when other employees make comments about employees breasts

Typical discrimination increases the likelihood that mothers will wean sooner than recommended. This can lead to diminished milk supply or painful infections.

Accommodations that should be provided:

  • A clean place to pump
  • 15 or 20 minutes breaks to pump about every three hours
  • Accommodations or temporary reassignment to breast feed if the above concession are not possible

The economic penalty

Of the discrimination cases, two-thirds of those involving breastfeeding found the plaintiff discriminated against. It goes up to three-fourths when the discrimination includes unpaid breaks or reduced hours. The study also found that it was worse in male-dominated industries: 43 percent of the discrimination claims come from the 16 percent of the breast-feeding employees who work in these fields.

Compliance is not optional

Whether it is the employer or the employee, there are laws that protect women far beyond the fact that they will have a job waiting for them after maternity leave. Those with concerns about a dismissal or accommodations should speak with a lawyer with experience handling employment law. Full compliance ensures that breast feeding employees know their needs are addressed. However, it also gives employers the moral high ground of knowing the company has met the needs of the employee and also helps retain quality personnel.

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