Since we still regularly hear about stores asking breastfeeding moms to stop using their sexy nourishing breasts, we must conclude that a sizable portion of the populace agrees with NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne's assessment that breastfeeding is "nasty." Fortunately, the government has stepped up to protect a woman right to gross everyone out with her natural bodily functions. President Obama's health care legislation mandates that new mothers must be given adequate breaks and space to nurse on the job, and the Labor Department is starting to go after companies that don't comply.
The regulation is tucked into the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in March 2010. MSNBC reports that the rules on breastfeeding haven't been finalized yet, but the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour division is already providing information on the requirements. The fact sheet on its website states:
Employers are required to provide "reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk." Employers are also required to provide "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk."
Lawyer Carrie Hoffman, who represents several employers, says, "It's been the law for a while and they don't have to have the final regulations to be able to enforce it." Currently the Labor Department has the right to fine a company or just force it to comply with the new laws. So far 23 companies have received citations for violations at some locations, including Dillard's, Starbucks, and McDonald's. After Dollar General was cited for failing to provide employees with a place to breastfeed and enough break time, the store changed its policies and agree to pay an employee $814.43 in back wages.
In addition to being a huge step for breastfeeding mothers at work, the new law may help change general attitudes about breastfeeding. Hopefully seeing space and time set aside for breastfeeding in the office will make more people realize that not everything boob-related is sexy and indecent.