The story of Simone De Santos made me start keeping an eye on the rights of breasfeeding mothers; I’m still shocked to have learned that the D.C. lawyer was ordered to stop feeding her baby by a security guard in a courthouse because it was “indecent.” The incident revealed the surprising fact that there are so many people who view breasts as sexual objects that also have the unfortunate role of performing the perfectly natural bodily function of feeding babies.
The good news on this front is that President Obama’s new health care legislation mandates that lactating women be given breaks and a private area to nurse at work. As part of the Affordable Care Act:
Employers are required to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk. Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.
This change is key after numerous companies, including Dillard’s, Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Dollar General, have been cited, fined, or sued for not allowing women adequate freedom to breastfeed on the job. The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division, the government agency responsible for enforcing these regulations, have already begun going after employers who are non-compliant and have cited 23 companies to date.