Back when I was a social media addict, I used to frequent mommy groups on Facebook that specifically focused on breastfeeding. One group was all about breastfeeding in the workplace and had over 20,000 members in that group alone.
Time and time again, I watched the same conversations about pumping in the workplace take place. On a weekly basis, a mom would log on and post about being discriminated against by her boss or her coworkers.
Sometimes, she was being discriminated against. It happens a lot. One mom wasn’t being provided with a private space to pump in her male-dominated workplace. Another was being told she only had ten minutes to pump, twice a day. Another was facing a lot of backlash from her coworkers, who had taken to gossiping about her since she returned from her maternity leave. Other times, unfortunately, the poster was experiencing discrimination, she just didn’t understand her rights.
I’ve always had fairly supportive workplaces. I worked at a hotel that literally bent over backward to work around my pumping schedule. After that, I worked at two different hospitals that had a designated space for pumping, provided a hospital pump, and had an incredibly supportive policy for pumping in the workplace. Even so, I was always nervous about how my pumping would be received. So, I made sure I knew everything about the laws about pumping so I always knew I was doing the right thing and knew how to protect my rights if the attitude in my workplace shifted. Here’s what I learned.
Your Workplace Must Provide You With Time to Pump
Unless your workplace isn’t covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, they have to provide you with time to pump. In some cases, businesses that can prove that giving their employees regular break times will cause hardship are exempt from these laws.
Most workplaces, however, do have to follow state and federal laws that require them to give nursing mothers time to pump. There isn’t a time limit for these breaks.
Unfortunately, there are some employees working in certain roles that aren’t protected by these laws. To figure out if you have rights to pumping breaks, check out the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Your Workplace Must Provide You With Space to Pump
In addition to giving you time to pump, your workplace needs to give you a private and clean space to pump. The space can’t be a bathroom and it needs to be available anytime the nursing mother needs it, without her being interrupted by coworkers.
However, this doesn’t mean the space must be solely for pumping breastmilk. If a company is limited on space, a room with another purpose, like an office, may be used for pumping. If this is the case, the mother has to be given access to the space whenever she needs it and be able to pump privately during her break.
Your Workplace Doesn’t Have to Pay You to Pump
This is by far the biggest misconception I saw online about being a pumping mom. Many mothers believe that being provided with breaks for pumping means they will get paid for the time they spend pumping. This isn’t the case.
Pumping breaks are unpaid breaks. The only exception to this is if the employer is providing paid breaks to other employees. For instance, if your workplace provides a paid, half hour lunch break and you choose to pump during that time, you don’t need to clock out or have pay deducted for that time.
You Can Report Your Workplace for Breaking the Law
If you believe your rights as a nursing mom aren’t being respected, you can report your workplace. Beginning with your human resources office might be the best, first step, allowing for a peaceful resolution of the issue. However, if your human resources office isn’t helpful, you can file a formal complaint online. To learn more about advocating for your rights as a nursing mom, visit the United States Department of Labor.
(Image By Benedikt Burkhardt -Benedikt Burkhardt, Ardo Medical- via Wikimedia Commons)