Booby Traps Series: This Labor Day, ask Congress to extend federal pumping law to all moms

Businesswoman Holding a BabyYou may have heard that the federal health care reform law of 2010 (known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare) requires employers to provide reasonable break time in a non-bathroom location to pump their milk.

But did you know that this requirement was extended only to some employees?  Many moms don’t realize that the law covers only hourly wage-earners (“nonexempt” employees).

That means that if you’re a salaried worker, you don’t have these rights under federal law.*  This excludes mothers many salaried occupations, including teachers.  The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee estimates that 12 million women are Booby Trapped by this exclusion.

Fortunately, there is movement afoot to extend the law to those excluded by the ACA.  It’s called the Supporting Working Moms Act, sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York.

We’ve known for some time that accommodating breastfeeding moms in the workplace saves businesses money, cuts absenteeism, reduces turnover, and makes moms happier employees.  We’ve made good progress in ensuring that mothers have rights to pump at work in both state and federal law.

But the job isn’t done.  That’s why it’s important to ask your representatives to co-sponsor or support the Supporting Working Moms Act.  To do so, visit this US Breastfeeding Committee page.  Enter your zip code, and you’ll be able to send an email to your representatives in no time.

* Some of you live in states where all moms are provided these accommodations.  But many of you live in states with no such law.  For you, federal law only protects you if you’re a non-salaried employee.

One thought on “Booby Traps Series: This Labor Day, ask Congress to extend federal pumping law to all moms

  1. I emailed my representatives. I preceded the standard letter with the following:

    I don’t understand why breastfeeding support at work stops at 12 months when the World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond ( That’s just silly. Wouldn’t it be better to support ALL breastfeeding moms?

    Consideration should also be extended to what happens to the milk itself, and also the breast pump. For example, my employer told me that I could pump (I fall into a category that is protected), however, I could not store my milk in the common refrigerators that everyone else uses to store lunches. The explanation I was given is “some of the guys might feel uncomfortable if they found out their lunch was near your breast milk.” Even if it is in a zipped up lunch bag. I am not kidding.

    I am also not permitted to rinse breast pump parts in the common break room sink – I was told I would have to use the sink in the bathroom instead. Really. That clearly goes against the principle of saying that we shouldn’t have to use our breast pumps in the bathrooms. I have no protection here and the blatant sexism is frustrating.

    It’s unfortunate that employers do not stick to the spirit of the law. What will you do to make sure this doesn’t keep happening? I ask not only for myself, but for other women who face similar hurdles when it comes to our careers and our breasts.


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