Did your employer discriminate because you breastfed?

There is a lot of pressure on new mothers. They are supposed to provide the best for their baby, but society also frowns upon a woman who eschews work for family. So, sometimes only a few days after giving birth, women go back to work, leaving their new babies at home with family. Exhaustion and feeling blue because you aren't with your new child are very common.

All of that pressure can make certain things, like providing breast milk for your baby, very difficult. Most developmental specialists agree that breast milk is ideal if you are able to provide it for your child.

The problem there is that going back to work can end up feeling like a choice between your career and your child's healthy development. Many moms, like you, decide to try to return to work and pump breast milk to provide for your child while you're at work. Pumping before you return to work ensures that your new baby has a supply of the best nutrition possible, even when mommy's off earning a wage.

The complication, however, is that in order to maintain a steady and sufficient flow of breast milk for your infant, you will need to pump breast milk every few hours, regardless of whether you're at work or not.

Federal law protects breastfeeding mothers

You should not be subject to workplace harassment or discrimination because of your gender or your decision to breastfeed your baby. Federal law actually protects your status as both a woman and a mother. Pregnancy and lactation are both medical conditions and employers are expected to provide reasonable accommodation for both. In the case of breastfeeding, that can mean allowing additional, unpaid breaks to the mother to sit in a private space and use a breast pump. While the accommodations required by lactating mothers is minimal, some employers still refuse to comply with the law.

Your lactation should not factor into any decisions about hiring, firing, promotion, demotion, pay increases or job performance. Your employer should continue to treat you as before your lactation. If you find that your employer suddenly takes issue with your performance, gives you fewer or worse shifts, fewer or worse client leads, demotes you or denies you a previously promised promotion or even fires you, that may be discrimination.

All workers should have safe work environments. No one should have to face a hostile work environment, especially not for something as simple and human as providing nutrition for a new baby. If you believe you are facing discrimination, do you best to document what you experience. If you do end up losing your job, those records could prove to be invaluable.

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