Nursing mothers face workplace harassment, discrimination

Despite the existence of laws like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, lactating women continue to face discrimination on the job in Texas and across the country. One Delaware woman recently won a $1.5 million jury verdict after she was subjected to harassment and degradation in the workplace while nursing, causing her to stop pumping and eventually lose her milk supply. Despite the success of such cases, however, nursing mothers continue to face major problems on the job.

One report by [email protected], an advocacy group, found that lactating mothers are often denied pumping spaces, break times or private areas in which to pump breast milk. They may also face crude, sexual or other harassing comments from coworkers or even supervisors while pumping breastmilk on the job. In some cases, women were denied pumping breaks even when their breasts were painful and leaking milk. Other mothers were fired from their jobs simply for asking for time to pump. Still, other lactating women were directed to pump in public areas, dirty bathrooms or physically dangerous spaces. Being a nursing mother in a discriminatory workplace can be especially difficult because not pumping can lead a mother's milk supply to dry up, forcing her to switch to formula feeding.

Retaliation was a particularly significant danger for breastfeeding mothers. A full two-thirds of employees involved in discrimination cases over lactation lost their jobs. Three-quarters experienced some kind of financial penalties for pursuing their cases. Many women were fired while 20 percent were forced to quit their jobs.

Workplace discrimination against nursing mothers continues to be a serious issue for many women on the job. Mothers who have faced penalties, dismissals or demotions due to pumping can consult with an employment law attorney about the potential to seek compensation for their losses.

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