Breastfeeding is an integral part of the beginning of a child’s life. Breastfeeding has long-term and immediate effects that are beneficial to the health of both mother and child. However, breastfeeding and breast pumping are frowned upon in some workplaces. This forces mothers to face the difficult choice of breastfeeding their child or losing their job.
Frontier Airlines recently settled a lawsuit filed by employees that accused the company of pregnancy and breastfeeding discrimination. The lawsuit, filed in 2019 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), claimed Frontier flight attendants were barred from breast pumping and penalized for pregnancy-related absences. Furthermore, they claimed they were denied accommodations for other workers with medical conditions. These accommodations included temporary on-ground assignments and medical leave. The airline did not admit any liability.
The lawsuit claimed that flight attendants were required to return to work quickly after giving birth. Furthermore, Frontier employees were not allowed to breast pump while on the plane and were not given enough time between flights. Lack of nursing can cause medical issues for both the mother and child, such as pain.
There is no known monetary payout in the settlement. Instead, Frontier instilled policy changes for all pregnant or lactating employees. These policy changes are meant to accommodate these and all employees better, as they are now updated:
- Flight attendants can safely pump during a flight using wearable breast pumps.
- Absences related to pregnancy are now excused and will not receive disciplinary action.
- Accommodations for flight attendants who cannot fly because of pregnancy or lactation concerns are now on the same terms as flight attendants with different medical conditions who are also unable to fly. Accommodations include medical leave or temporary on-ground assignments.
- Workers are now provided an up-to-date list of lactation facilities at Frontier locations and information on lactation facilities offered by other airports to which Frontier flies.
With the settlement, Frontier employees no longer need to worry about when to be given the time and space to breast pump in a sanitary way. They no longer have to worry about pumping in between flights and are now afforded the same rights as other workers with medical conditions. With the changes, they can freely breast pump and provide for their family without choosing between breastfeeding and work.
Breast Pumping at Work in Pennsylvania
Mothers legally have the right to breastfeed in public in Pennsylvania. According to the Freedom to Breastfeed Act, a mother has the freedom to nurse her child in public, and breastfeeding is not considered a public nuisance or indecent exposure. The mother may do so, whether in public or private, as long as they are not trespassing and may breastfeed regardless of if the mother’s breast is covered. This law recognizes the importance of breastfeeding and the nurturing aspect between mother and child.
However, Pennsylvania does not have a state law that protects breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. Different cities in the state may have their own rules, though.
Philadelphia does have the Fair Practices Ordinance, which provides accommodations to mothers, including unpaid break time to express milk. Accommodations also include a private and sanitary place to pump, as long as the site is not a bathroom. Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services issued a policy that required more unique state-owned buildings to have at least one lactation space.
Mothers in Pennsylvania who are hourly employees, or non-exempt, are protected by the federally mandated Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In 2010, the FLSA was amended to include another law called Break Time for Nursing Mothers. The amended law required employers to allow breastfeeding hourly employees reasonable break time and a private space to pump that is not a bathroom; this protects a woman’s right for one year after the child’s birth.
Some key points of the FLSA and Break Time for Nursing Mothers:
- The breaks allowed for mothers are not required to be paid holidays.
- The lactation facility accommodated to the mother cannot be a bathroom and must be private and free of view and intrusion.
- A reasonable break time is not specified, as some mothers may need longer than others to pump. Furthermore, the amount of breaks is not set either, as some may need two or three breaks during a shift while others may need one.
- According to the U.S. Department of Labor, if a company has fewer than 50 employees, regardless of the worksite, and the accommodation breaks cause a hardship for the employer, then the accommodations can be waived. However, the burden of proof of the hardship is on the employer.
Just about half the states in the country have laws that protect a mother’s right to breast pump in the workplace. Every state has a law protecting a woman’s right to breastfeed in public. Many state laws that protect a woman’s right to breast pump at work even offer better protections than the ones provided by the FLSA amendment. These improvements include protection for all workers and not just hourly ones and extending past the one-year mark from the birth of the mother’s child.
Work Stigma of Breast Pumping at Work
The number of working women expecting climbs every year. The Department of Labor has found that 62 percent of new mothers with children under a year old are working. However, many women, who began breastfeeding at the start of maternity leave, stop breastfeeding when they return to work. Although over 80 percent of U.S. babies are breastfed after birth, only 22 percent remain breastfed after six months.
Almost two-thirds of expecting mothers believe there is a stigma against women who breast pump at work, and over half of the women feel breastfeeding negatively impacts their careers. Many women believe that it is too stressful to work and pump and forgo breastfeeding instead of their jobs.
Even with the newer laws protecting women’s right to breast pump at work, the stigma still exists until the culture changes. Also, work still needs to be done, as breast pumping can sometimes take more than half an hour, if not more, and employers are not required to pay their employees while they take these breaks. The breaks could happen every two or three hours. Furthermore, there is no enforcement of the new laws, so there is no way to force employers to do what is required.
If you have been discriminated against because of breastfeeding or pregnancy, you should contact a lawyer to discuss your options.
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Help New and Expecting Mothers Facing Discrimination at Work
If you have been discriminated against because you are an expecting mother or need to pump at work, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact one of our Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. for assistance. Call us at 215-569-1999 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.