August in National Breastfeeding Month. Stories are constantly trending on social media about breastfeeding mothers being told not to nurse their babies in public. Other women are being refused work breaks when they need to pump their painful breasts to extract milk for later. It's upsetting to have to deal with angry strangers and bosses just because you're trying to feed your hungry baby. If you are a breastfeeding mother who is having a difficult time with others in public places, you need to know what your rights are.
Idaho on Breastfeeding
Currently, 47 out of the 50 states in the U.S. have laws protecting breastfeeding mothers. South Dakota and Virginia only have laws that protect nursing mothers from being charged with public nudity, but Idaho is the only state with nothing on the books. While Idaho has no laws against public breastfeeding, they have no laws protecting nursing women either. Nursing mothers have been fighting for years to get some laws on the books to protect their rights to feed their babies in public. Idaho is a huge breastfeeding state; meaning, the percentage of women who breastfeed in Idaho is far above the country's norm.
In a poll taken by women on a web site dedicated to Idaho's breastfeeding laws, 90% of Idaho mothers stated that they are or have breastfed their children. Nearly 60% of the women continued to breastfeed at 6 months, and 35% still breastfed at one year. The only law in place for these women is the jury duty exemption law. A letter from a physician stating that the woman is nursing will ensure she doesn't have to be on jury duty.
Public Breastfeeding Laws
In the rest of the United States, nursing women are exempt from public nudity laws. Women are legally permitted to breastfeed in any public place that they are legally allowed to be in. If you are breastfeeding at the grocery store, while shopping for a vehicle, or at the park, you are covered by laws that protect your rights. No one is allowed to tell you that you are not allowed to feed your baby. You are never legally obligated to go sit in a dirty bathroom or in your vehicle until your baby is finished.
Pumping in the workplace is another subject that is important to breastfeeding mothers. Not all women are able to or want to stay at home with their children until they start school. Just because a mother goes back to work, doesn't mean that she should stop being able to breastfeed her child.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act states that people are protected by discrimination in the workplace. Workplaces with 15 or more employees are not allowed to refuse to hire or to fire people because of their race, gender, or religion. This law also covers women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. As for pumping in the workplace, the laws vary depending on the state. You have to check your individual state laws to know exactly what your rights are.
Many states have laws that require your workplace to allow you to pump your breast milk. The laws require your employer to provide you with proper accommodations to pump milk whenever you need to. These accommodations include a clean, private room that is not a restroom. Some state laws state that the employers do not have to pay for pumping breaks, while others do. For example, Indiana requires companies with at least 25 employees to provide paid pumping breaks to breastfeeding mothers.
What To Do if Your Rights Are Squandered
If you are refused access to a public venue because you are breastfeeding, or if you are refused a job or pumping breaks in a state that protects pumping women, you have the right to sue. Depending on the details of the incident, call a workplace or personal injury lawyer to help. Not only can you receive compensation for your hardship, you can make the people or company who have wronged you accountable to the law and to the public.
It's important to know your rights as a breastfeeding mother. Don't hide in a bathroom or your car because other people are uncomfortable. There is nothing wrong with feeding your baby the way nature indented. Don't hesitate to call a lawyer if you need help.