Starting Tuesday, a new Texas law will require that public employees to be given breaks to pump breast milk at work, and that they can’t be fired or disciplined for taking the time to pump. The law benefits public employees like teachers, one of whom told the Texas Observer that she’s had to pump standing up in her classroom, in bathrooms, and in supply closets.
The federal laws protecting breastfeeding have gotten a lot better in recent years: in 2010, the Affordable Care Act mandated that employers provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child” for one year after the baby is born. It also says that an employer has to provide a place other than a bathroom for an employee to pump, one that is “shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.”
But those protections only extend to hourly employees: the laws protecting salaried employees who are nursing or pumping breast milk at work still vary widely by state. That’s how Amanda Baldwin, then a teacher at a middle school in Ceder Hill, found herself only able to pump on her lunch breaks, as she told the Dallas Morning News. Sarah Kuttesch, a teacher in San Antonio, told the Observer that she has four children and has never been easily able to pump; she’s the one who had to retreat to supply closets and the like, where occasionally the janitorial staff would walk in on her.
The new bill, HB 786, says that public employees have a right to express breast milk and that they must be given a “reasonable accommodation” to do so. And so women’s rights in America inch forward another tiny, sluggish step that you literally cannot believe took so long to achieve.
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