Sex discrimination is generally defined as the act of treating an employee differently based on their sex.
It may surprise you to learn, then, that while most mothers will be able to breastfeed at work, you’re not guaranteed to have that right.
Federal regulations for breastfeeding at work
As part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, federal rules generally dictate that an employer will provide:
- Reasonable time for mothers to breastfeed for up to one year after the child’s birth when the mother needs to do so
- A location for the mother to express milk that isn’t a bathroom and that is free of intrusions from the mother’s coworkers
However, not every employer is bound to these federal standards. Companies that have fewer than 50 employees are exempt from these regulations if they can demonstrate that these standards impose an “undue hardship.”
Regulations in Pennsylvania for breastfeeding mothers
Just because a company has fewer than 50 employees doesn’t mean that there aren’t regulations that can be imposed at the state or local level.
In Pennsylvania, there are currently no statewide rules surrounding breastfeeding protections. However, some localities have implemented their own rules to help protect mothers.
Philadelphia, for instance, passed an ordinance in 2014 that mandated employers provide adequate space and time for mothers to express milk. This law applies to all employers, regardless of how many employees they have. Much like the federal law, employers that could demonstrate an “undue hardship” from the ordinance are exempt.
There is a new push to create statewide regulations for mothers in Pennsylvania. The ordinance enacted in Philadelphia is being used by some lawmakers as a template for regulations at the state level.
We’ll continue to monitor whether anything emerges from the state legislature in this arena. If you believe you've been discriminated against while breastfeeding at work, you should consult an attorney to see if your rights have been violated.