A woman’s legal action to enforce her right to breast pump at work under a provision of the Affordable Care Act is moving forward. It is the first federal lawsuit filed under the new law, which entitles women to a clean, private, non-bathroom space to pump. There are various reasons why this is important, including hygiene and cleanliness for the milk and safety and privacy for the woman. Providing this space makes it possible for women to continue to breast-feed after they have returned to work from maternity leave if they so choose.
The woman in this lawsuit says that when she returned to work from maternity leave she was aware of her rights under the 2010 Affordable Care Act and that she sought to enforce them. She was met initially with some resistance and asked to pump in the bathroom, later being given a space in a locker room which she says was very dirty and not suitable for her needs. At the same time, colleagues harassed her and banged on the door while she was pumping.
Eventually her work schedule was changed to require her to alternate day and overnight shifts, which interfered significantly with her feeding schedule and ability to continue to breastfeed her baby. Finally she filed a lawsuit with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit is still working its way through the federal court system and the results will likely have a big impact on the requirements for compliance with this provision of the law.
Before this law was passed, mothers who needed to use a breast pump during the day did not have a lot of protection from harassment or retaliation and did not have affirmative rights to accommodations.
Source: NBC News, “Pumped up: Breastfeeding mothers fight for rights at work,” Allison Yarrow, Jan. 11, 2014.