Working women who decide to breastfeed often face a dilemma about what to do when they are at work. A new amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) signed by Governor Chris Christie before he left office mandates that employers provide breaks and a place for women to breastfeed or express their milk during the work day. Breastfeeding is now a protected activity, making New Jersey the 18th state to give civil rights to breastfeeding mothers.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed for at least six months, but few working women are able to achieve this goal. Breastfeeding is often an uncomfortable topic for employers and co-workers, and many working mothers who successfully initiate breastfeeding find it difficult to continue once they return to work.
Infant Health and Breastfeeding
The benefits of breastfeeding include lower risk of infections, hospitalization, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Healthier infants reduce insurance costs for care and parents’ time away from work to stay home with sick children. Pediatricians praised Christie for signing the bill into law saying that it would benefit employers and employees alike. The law covers all employers except those who can prove that accommodating a breastfeeding employee would create “an undue hardship on business operations.”
The new requirements for employers say that women must be allowed breaks during the work day to breastfeed or pump milk and there must be a private space for them to do so. This space must be near the work area and cannot be a toilet stall. The breastfeeding breaks do not have to be paid unless the employee had previously been paid during breaks.
Pregnancy discrimination was prohibited in New Jersey in 2014 as part of the LAD. Even so, many employers are reluctant to accommodate the needs of pregnant women, which may include rest and water breaks, assistance with manual labor, or light duty. Even in a work situation where breastfeeding is accommodated, a woman may have to deal with an assortment of positive and negative reactions to her choice to breastfeed at work. Every woman will have to choose how much discretion to use based on her own needs and experience.
State Senator Teresa Ruiz, one of the sponsors of the bill, said because there is no food that offers more nutritional benefits to a baby than breast milk, it is essential that new mothers have the ability to breastfeed at work without fear of being harassed or fired.
Middletown Employment Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Advise Employers and Employees on Breastfeeding Rights in the Workplace
If you have questions about the new breastfeeding law or feel you have experienced workplace discrimination, contact a skilled Middletown employment lawyer at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. to review your legal options.
Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, our Newark office at 973-878-9040, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey.