Do breastfeeding employees have any protection under the laws? That was the question I wanted an answer to after learning from other women that some employers were not supportive of their decision to continue breastfeeding upon return to work. The employers of the women I talked to did not refuse to allow the women to pump at work, but did not make it easy for them either. Many of the women did not have regular breaks or a private and convenient place to express their breast milk.
Unfortunately, as of 2009 approximately 15 states have enacted laws that protect a lactating employee. Iowa is not one of those states. Of the states with laws, none provide a lactating employee any time, other than their normal breaks, in which to pump and only a few require the employer to provide a lactation area. I would argue that such laws do not effectively provide any protection to a lactating employee. Without adequate time and a private area, many women would abandon the idea of continuing to breastfeed their children.
With all the benefits that breastfeeding provides for both mother and child, it would be beneficial for employers to support mothers who wish to continue breastfeeding upon their return to work. I am lucky to work for an employer that has supported my decision to continue breastfeeding upon my return to work. For those of you with employers that may not prohibit you from pumping at work, but do not necessarily encourage you, talk to your employer before the issue arises. Perhaps your employer has never been faced with the issue or the issue has never been discussed. Employers, think about this issue prior to a request from an employer. Think about whether you can create a private place for a lactating worker or provide such employer with additional time in which to pump. Thinking about it now may reduce future problems.