Federal laws protect breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. But according to a recent study, nursing mothers often face reprisals for seeing to their breastfeeding needs at work — including losing their jobs.
A full two-thirds of cases of alleged breastfeeding discrimination over the last 10 years involved employees losing their jobs, says the report from the Nursing Mothers Law Project at the University of California at Hastings College of Law.
While only 16 percent of women work in industries considered to be male-dominated, 43 percent of breastfeeding discrimination claims came from these industries, the research shows.
Breastfeeding discrimination includes offenses such as denying break requests from employees in pain and leaking milk, terminating workers who asked for breaks, failing to provide privacy for workers needing to pump breast milk and sexual harassment involving commentary by co-workers.
The study also found that 75 percent of fired employees also faced additional economic penalties such as not being paid during 15-minute breaks or working reduced hours.
What Are The Breastfeeding Laws In Tennessee?
Tennessee has a number of state laws protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, these laws include:
- Tennessee Code § 68-58-101, which allows a mother to breastfeed in any authorized public or private place
- Tennessee Code § 68-58-102, which establishes that breastfeeding cannot be considered public indecency or nudity, obscene, or sexual conduct
- Tennessee Code § 68-58-103, which provides that local governments cannot prohibit breastfeeding in public by local ordinance
- Tennessee Code § 50-1-305, which establishes that employers are required to accommodate breastfeeding mothers at work
Employees who are denied their rights to manage breastfeeding needs during work hours may be able to file a discrimination case against their employers. The best way to determine your rights is to contact an attorney with experience handling matters involving workplace breastfeeding policies.
Can I Legally Be Fired for Breastfeeding?
Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act —otherwise known as the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision — requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to handle breast milk for a nursing child for one year after the child’s birth at any time. An employer must also provide a place other than a bathroom that offers a protected view and is free from intrusion by coworkers or the public so the employee can handle breast milk.
However, the Department of Labor notes that employers are not necessarily required under the FLSA to compensate nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk.
Do I Have A Breastfeeding Discrimination Case?
When a mother has lost her job over breastfeeding issues, it can create extreme financial hardship for the family. Mothers are right to think that their firings were unjustified, and they may be able to recover compensation in such cases of wrongful termination.
To determine if you have a valid claim, contact an experienced employment lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney can evaluate the case to determine if discrimination took place and whether you are entitled to monetary compensation.
How Can the Employment and Consumer Law Group Help Me?
If you or your loved one have been the victim of breastfeeding discrimination in the greater Nashville area, the attorneys at the Employment and Consumer Law Group are standing by to help protect and enforce your rights.
Call our wrongful termination attorneys at (615) 258-7134 or contact us online for a free consultation.