Breastfeeding at Work

By Jack Tuckner, Esq.

Under federal law, since 2010, women returning from maternity leave who are breastfeeding, nursing parents – are entitled to a clean, private, non-restroom, non-bathroom space in which to express milk; to take a break and to lactate on a similar schedule to what your baby would be doing, nursing, if you were home, two or three times a day. Otherwise, it’s very painful, you can develop mastitis, it may interfere permanently with your ability to breastfeed, and it’s illegal.

So, you want to make sure that you are requiring, requesting, demanding that you have a place to lactate, to express milk, otherwise it is sex discrimination. And under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, lactation is a related medical condition to pregnancy. So it is a requirement and in certain states such as New York, you’re entitled to express milk for up to three years after the birth of your baby. And again, it can’t be in a makeshift room which doesn’t have running water or electricity; it has to be a space that’s private, clean, has an outlet for your electric pump, and a place to rinse your pump after you’re done without any hostility, without discrimination, and without your employer giving you a hard time as a result of it – that would be sex and pregnancy discrimination.

But make sure, the onus is on us, the employees, initially, to request – and I would recommend that you put that request in writing, so that you’ll have proof and you can hold your employer accountable if they fail to comply with the law. Federal law, New York State law, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in New York City – all require private space for you as a nursing parent to express milk.