Breastfeeding? Here Are 5 Legal Rights You Need to Know
One of the newest emojis is a breastfeeding mama. That must be a sign that nursing has gained widespread social acceptance and universal workplace support! Not so fast. The sad fact is, due to the unpredictable reactions of other people, it still can feel like you need a set of brass ones to breastfeed in public. And pumping in your car/the Starbucks bathroom/the changing room at Target often feels like a better option than doing so in your own damn office (thanks, open floor plans). But you know what’s instantly empowering? Knowing your legal rights. Here are five.
Your pump (and lactation consultant) should be covered by insurance
The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare (which, last we checked, still exists), “requires new private health insurance plans to provide coverage with no cost sharing (e.g., copayment, coinsurance, or deductible) [for] breastfeeding support, supplies and lactation counseling.” In other words, once the baby arrives, call the number on the back of your insurance card and get them to send you a free electric pump, stat.
It’s legal to publicly breastfeed in every state except Idaho
You have a right to pump on company time
And in a comfortable environment that is NOT a bathroom. As part of the aforementioned ACA, employers must “provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express milk.” Employers “must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, for the employee to express breast milk.”
And you might not have to go to jury duty
Seventeen states and Puerto Rico exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty or allow them to postpone it until their children are no longer nursing. But the laws are nuanced and varied. Kentucky not only exempts breastfeeding mothers but also those who are expressing breast milk, according to La Leche League International. Iowa, on the other hand, exempts only breastfeeding mothers who are not employed outside the home. So if you’re an Iowan on maternity leave or pumping at work, it's murkier.
It’s illegal to discriminate
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dictates that if a decision-maker or boss “steer[s] or assign[s] women with caregiving responsibilities to less prestigious or lower-paid positions” with the assumption that her performance will suffer as a result of becoming a mama, he or she is violating federal law. Plain and simple.