Not a Toilet Stall

If the Colorado legislature had approved the bill earlier this year to require employers to give breastfeeding mother a time and place to express breast milk, it would have been among a small group of states that have similar requirements, according to the La Leche League.

Ten states-Connecticut, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington-have laws to make breastfeeding or pumping easier for working mothers. Most of them require employers to provide unpaid “reasonable” break time for workers, if possible, concurrent with break time they already have.

Six of these states explicitly say that employers should try to find a private place for mothers to express milk that is “not a toilet stall.” All the working mothers out there who have ever wrestled with breast pump equipment can certainly appreciate that requirement.
As introduced, Colorado’s legislation had this requirement too.

Texas and Washington both have programs where employers can earn an official “infant friendly” label if they meet a number of criteria, including providing flexible work hours, if they have flexible work schedules, provide privacy for pumping, and access to places where women can wash out the breast pump apparatus and store the milk.

Hawaii has an especially strong statute that states it is discrimination to treat a breastfeeding mother “different from any other employee.” Employers can’t discriminate against these women by firing them, refusing to hire them, demote them or penalize them.

With all the headlines and controversy about women breastfeeding in public, there is not always adequate attention to the problem of where women can privately and comfortably express milk. Yet this is a necessity for any working mother who wants to continue breastfeeding as public health officials say she should. People tend to be squeamish about the very idea about it, but for thousands of working women, the challenges it presents is a basic part of their day-to-day existence.

[previously crossposted at www.muckrakingmomcom]

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About the Author

Nancy Watzman

is a Denver-based writer.

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