The Affordable Care Act’s main focus was on the health care industry, but as with any other legislative measure, there was a lot more written in the pages than someone unfamiliar with the bill might know about. One of these terms affects the employment rights of nursing mothers.
The ACA term amended another big piece of legislation, the Fair Labor Standards Act. With this amendment, the FLSA now clearly defines that employers in San Francisco and across the nation must provide nursing mothers with a “private, non-bathroom place” in which to express their milk.
This room must also be clean space “shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.” This standard, said one nursing mom was certainly not met in her place of employment.
For this working mom, when she shared her nursing needs with her employer, she was actually given a number of different room options. The problem in this case was not the quantity, but the quality. Her first option was the employee bathroom; as noted above, this is specifically excluded in the legislation as an eligible room.
Next on the list was a first-aid room. This may have been a good option, expect for the “intrusion” of others. While coworkers did not enter the room, they continually beat on the door, yelling taunts into the room. Would a court consider verbal and not just physical acts under the definition of intrusion?
After a couple more options were presented with their own issues, until the mother eventually gave up. “My baby has to eat,” she said when describing why she finally agreed to pump in an old locker room, on a chair, without air conditioning and dead bugs. The chair was eventually removed, where she was then forced to sit on the floor.
The company ultimately apologized to the working mom. The company even offered paid vacation for two weeks and promised that FLSA standards would be kept in the future. That didn’t happen, and eventually the stressful conditions, now including added sexual harassment and spanning over 10 weeks, prevented her from being able to produce enough breast milk to feed her child.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Bobbi Bockoras, Breastfeeding Mom, Allegedly Forced By Employer To Pump On Dirty Floor,” Katy Waldman, Nov. 8, 2013