Breastfeeding discrimination can have severe health and financial consequences for nursing mothers in California and across the country. One recent study indicates that up to 66 percent of nursing mothers who faced discrimination in the workplace lost their jobs as a result. The health consequences were also often significant, causing serious infections, ongoing pain, lost milk supply and earlier weaning or formula feeding as a result of the workplace environment. Despite legislation designed to provide protection for nursing mothers on the job, many women continue to face a lack of accommodation and other forms of discrimination for breastfeeding at work.
The Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, which is designed to protect mothers, excludes a full 25 percent of working women. It can also be difficult for nursing mothers to enforce their rights in court or understand the sections of the law that are being violated at work. Many women may fear further retaliation, especially when they are already being mistreated on the job. This form of workplace discrimination can include denial of access to necessary breaks or failure to provide a clean, private space where mothers can pump breast milk.
Even the workers who were not fired in these cases experienced serious economic penalties. They worked reduced hours or were forced to go unpaid during their nursing breaks. Women in male-dominated industries had a particularly serious experience with discrimination. While only 16 percent of women have these jobs, they generated 43 percent of discrimination claims.
Nursing mothers may be unaware of their rights in the workplace and how to protect them. Women who have faced workplace discrimination because of their sex, including pregnancy and breastfeeding, can turn to an employment law attorney. A lawyer can provide guidance on the next steps workers can take to protect their jobs and seek accountability.