Wednesday, September 11, 2013

All Working Moms Deserve Breastfeeding Support

From Healthfulmama.com
Do you work for an hourly wage? If you work for a company with more than 50 employees, they are required by law to provide you a place that is not a restroom as well as adequate break time to pump milk for your baby.  However, if you happen to be a salaried employee in that very same company, you just might be out of luck. The law requires absolutely NOTHING in the way of breastfeeding support from your employer. This law provides terrific support for the millions of hourly employees across this county. Nevertheless, professionals who receive a salary have absolutely no legal support.

In my practice I frequently work with teachers who are returning to work. Many local principals are very understanding and do try to find a way to help their teachers continue pumping. But not all. Sometimes a mother has to choose between breastfeeding and returning to her job simply because there is no accommodation. Teachers are on a very tight schedule and may not have two 20 minute segments during the day for pumping. With ever-tightening school budgets, unless the force of law is behind it, some school administrators will never see this as a priority. Pharmacists, lawyers, physicians, engineers and upper management personnel all find themselves in this same situation.

That is why the Supporting Working Moms Act of 2013 has been introduced in both the House and
Contact Senator Lamar Alexander
from Tennessee with your support.
the Senate this year. This act extends those benefits to salaried employees, as well. On May 9 it was introduced in the House and referred to the House Education and the Workforce committee. Then it was introduced in the Senate on May 13 and referred to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee. Unfortunately, many bills end up dying in committee due to a wide variety of factors. However, YOU have the chance to make a difference!

You can do several things. First, take a look at the representatives on the House committee. If you live in Alabama, you have one representative on that committee. Take a minute to write her and let her know how important this issue is. Then look at the Senate committee. If you live in Tennessee, you actually have a ranking member on this committee!

Congresswoman Martha Roby
is on the House committee
Next you can write directly to your elected senators and representative telling them why this bill is so good for the country. It honestly is a bill that should cross political party lines because whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, you recognize the importance of improving the health of the nation's children via a simple vote that requires absolutely no financial commitment by anyone and actually ends up saving employers money! If you are unsure about how to contact your officials, click here. You will enter your zip code, and receive contact information for both senators and your representative.

If the bill fails this year, then urge your senators and representatives to co-sponsor the bill next year. Unfortunately, the chances of its passing this year look slim. However, if there is a loud public outcry in favor of it, even the nearly impossible can happen! Will you take 5 minutes right now to send a few emails??

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for helping spread the word about this important legislation. One note though - just because your employer has fewer than 50 employees does not mean that they are exempt. ALL employers must comply, but small employers will be given the opportunity to apply for undue hardship in the event that a breastfeeding employee registers a complaint against the employer. There are no automatic exemptions.

    From the United States Breastfeeding Committee FAQ page on the federal "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" law (http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/Default.aspx?TabId=188):

    "The employer bears the burden of proof that compliance with the provision would be an undue hardship. In addition to demonstrating that the employer employs fewer than 50 employees, an employer that wishes to avail itself of the exemption must show that compliance would cause the employer “significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer's business.”

    The Department of Labor will not grant prospective exemption for undue hardship to employers. Since the law will only be enforced while an employee demonstrates the need for break time to express milk and employer conditions will vary over time, the undue hardship exemption will serve only as an affirmative defense in response to a Department of Labor investigation resulting from an employee complaint.

    The Department believes that this is a stringent standard that will result in employers being able to avail themselves of the exemption only in limited circumstances. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may not presume that having a smaller workforce by itself sufficiently demonstrates that compliance would pose a significant difficulty or expense; the difficulty or expense must be shown in light of the factors listed in the law."

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  2. Cheryl,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to clarify this!

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