Several states have enacted breastfeeding laws to help protect new mothers and their desires to pump and to feed their infants with breast milk. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also includes specific workplace breastfeeding laws that protect pumping or expressing breast milk at work. Such laws prevent discrimination against these mothers.

What are the Laws about Breastfeeding in Public?

Most states have passed laws that specifically allow breastfeeding in public. In all other states, legislation exists that exempts women from being prosecuted for public nudity or indecency. It is generally against the law for public places like a restaurant or sporting facility to tell you not to breastfeed and would be considered discrimination. 

What are the Laws about Breastfeeding at Work?

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers are required to provide women with reasonable breaks for pumping breast milk. Depending on the state, employers may also be required to accommodate new mothers with a private and sanitary area to pump milk. In general, employers cannot make it difficult for the new mother to return to work.

It is generally against the law if your employer refuses to make measures to assist you to breastfeed at work, if the measures are reasonable. It may be discrimination if:

  • Your employer does not provide you with appropriate amenities for breastfeeding at work You are not allowed to organize your work breaks or lunches to enable breastfeeding
  • Your employer maintains that you work night shift when other shifts are available that would allow you to continue breastfeeding

How Can I Enforce My Rights?

Many states do not have enforcement provisions for public breastfeeding laws. However, new mothers can use the law as a defense if she is ever caught up in a legal situation for breastfeeding in public.

As for workplace pumping rights, new mothers can generally file complaints with their state’s Labor Commission. Again, depending on the states, employers may be liable for every time that they violated the new mother’s rights. For example, in California, if the employer does not allow the new mother to take unpaid breaks to pump, the employer will be fined $100 per occurrence.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

An employment lawyer with experience in workplace discrimination can help you assess your case and help you enforce your rights. A lawyer can provide you with more detailed legal statutes pertaining to your state of residence.