As basic as these rights should be, many other states still lag behind.
If you’re a new mama heading back to work, the ability to nurse or pump on the job is probably just one item on your list of concerns. But lawmakers in New Jersey recently moved to ease concerns for women in the workplace—which earns them a round of applause from us and should serve as a hint-hint to other states that still lag behind in policies that protect breastfeeding rights.
Per the law signed into effect on Monday in New Jersey, employers must provide accommodations to working parents who need to breastfeed or pump milk.
This includes regulations on how often nursing parents should be granted time to breastfeed or express milk and also mandates the workers are offered private rooms that aren’t bathroom stalls.
“No food offers more health benefits to a baby than breast milk,” New Jersey state senator Teresa Ruiz, one of the legislation’s sponsors, tells NJ.com. “We must ensure that new mothers returning to work have the ability to breastfeed, and that no woman is harassed, fired or provided restrictive accommodations for expressing milk for their child.”
Ruiz adds she hopes the law sends a big message that nursing parents have a right to pump or breastfeed.
New Jersey joins 24 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, that explicitly protect the rights of nursing parents in the workplace, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. (You can look here to see a state-by-state breakdown of breastfeeding rights.)
Like New Jersey, these states require employers offer break time for breastfeeding or expressing milk; however, two states—Hawaii and California—go further by making it illegal to discriminate against parents by firing or refusing to hire a person because they breastfeed, according to NCSL.
Four other states—North Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming—have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace, but do not require employers to provide accommodations.
Federal law also provides protections to nursing workers under the Affordable Care Act. Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act—known as Break Time for Nursing Mothers—requires companies provide reasonable break times to breastfeeding employees each time they need to express milk, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The law is only applicable for one year after the child’s birth.
Nursing is hard enough as is, but even more difficult when you are a working parent. Lawmakers in the remaining states without protections need to step up do more to ensure the rights of breastfeeding workers. We’re all better for it.