Saturday, September 19, 2009

Breastfeeding in the Work Place

Last night on CNN Campbell Brown addressed the case of LaNisa Allen, the mother of a 4 month old who was fired by Totes/Isotoner because she was taking pumping breaks to provide breastmilk for her baby. While other employees could take smoke breaks or bathroom breaks, LaNisa lost her job for taking the same length break.

In her introduction, Brown talked about how lucky she is to have an employer who allows her to pump milk regularly for her baby. Not all women have that opportunity, however. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.)also appears on the segment talking about a bill she has sponsored, The Breastfeeding Promotion Act. Maloney's bill would provide protection for breastfeeding in the workplace under civil rights law. No woman could lose her job or be discriminated against in any other way for pumping during a break. Employers would have to provide break time to pump. They would also be required to try to find a private, secure place for nursing moms to express their milk. It would provide a tax credit for up to fifty percent of any expenses an employer incurs as a result.

We have a lot of working moms come into A Nurturing Moment. Many of them are professional women who have lactation rooms at their companies or who have private offices. Nevertheless, we still see many mothers like LaNisa who have to pump in a restroom, arguably the most germ-filled place in the whole company. No mother should have to pump in a bathroom! So we tell moms that we will work with their human resource director to help make pumping work for them.

Pumping Benefits Everybody

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has put together a comprehensive guide for employers called The Business Case of Breastfeeding. This material is available free of charge to companies. It details the many benefits to the company itself when it creates a lactation support program.
- Greater employee satisfaction
- Higher retention rates
- Reduced employee absenteeism
- Lower health-care costs for babies receiving breastmilk

We will help companies evaluate their situation to find the optimal lactation program that will work for them. We will even contract with them to provide on-site breastfeeding support and education for their employees and for spouses of employees.

LaNisa's little boy is now four. She took her case against Totes/Isotoner all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court where she lost. They said the case was about her taking unauthorized breaks. I wonder what the company would have done if she was smoking instead of pumping? My bet? She'd still have her job!

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