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Is federal anti-discrimination protection for breastfeeding women in workplace on the horizon?

June 17th, 2009  |  Deborah Hammonds

>Numerous states have provided women who breastfeed in the workplace with protection from discrimination while federal anti-discrimination protections have been absent. That may change, thanks to legislation recently introduced by New York Representative Carolyn Maloney (D). The Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 (H.R. 2819) would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to provide anti-discrimination protections for women who breastfeed in the workplace. The Act would also require employers to provide a private space, other than a bathroom, where a woman can express breast milk and amends the Internal Revenue Code to provide employers up to $10,000 credit for expenses incurred.

“‘The Breastfeeding Promotion Act’ recognizes both scientific fact and the way Americans live now; human milk is the best nutrient for new babies—and most mothers have to go back to work during a child’s first year, when breastfeeding is most important,” Rep. Maloney said on June 11th during the announcement of the bill’s introduction.

“This bill will bring breastfeeding mothers under the protection of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, require employers with over 50 employees to provide a private space and unpaid time off during the workday for mothers to express milk, and sets standards for breast pump manufacture. It also provides for tax incentives for employers that establish private lactation areas in the workplace and tax credits for nursing mothers,” she said.

A similar bill (S. 1244) was introduced in the Senate by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley (D).

“It’s not every day we have the opportunity to enact legislation that is so clearly a win-win for families and our nation. Making it easier for moms to breastfeed means we have healthier babies, stronger families and happier workers,” Sen. Merkley said. “I championed Oregon’s breastfeeding bill two years ago. I’m excited to see Oregon’s contribution to a nationwide movement embraced by Representative Maloney and all those who have long advocated the purely common sense notion that breast milk is best.”