Legitimate and gainful employment is the only accepted mode of earning a living in every sane clime. The activities which culminate into employment and services rendered as an employee are regulated by laws governing the labour sector of various countries.
It appears that the labour sector and the laws regulating the practice in the labour sector will continuously evolve. The need for the continuous evolution in the labour sector and its legal framework is not far fetched, because of the growing need of humans who are the key players in the labour sector.
This study will focus on the legal safeguard in place for nursing or breastfeeding mothers generally and in the labour sector of the United States.
While there are laws which permit nursing mothers to breastfeed their young ones in public including the nursing mothers place of work but there are rules and guidelines which ultimately defeat the general application of this legal right.
The right to breastfeed a child by a nursing mother in the United States will be discussed in the following headings:
- The right to breastfeed under the federal and state laws in the United States.
- The right to breastfeed where there is no law expressly prohibiting such.
- The summary of the applicability and enforcement of the right to breastfeed in public place.
- The glossary of states where nursing mothers are allowed to publicly breastfeed in the US
The Right to Breastfeed under the Federal and State Laws in the United States
The federal government in the United States accords nursing mothers the right to breastfeed their babies in public including in their place of employment. This right is also recognized in some states in the United States, which makes it additional institutional protection.
The companies and employers in all states are expected to permit nursing mothers some unpaid time (break) in order to breastfeed their young ones or alternatively extract breast milk which will be used by the nanny to feed the baby. This right is expected to last for a period not exceeding one year after the birth of the child.
The federal and state laws which permit the nursing mothers to breastfeed their babies in public places including their place of work does not mandate companies or employers to create an onsite daycare. An on-site daycare in this context is the place where a nursing mother can take her baby in order to breastfeed the baby.
However, the nursing mother is permitted to take the child outside or to another specified place within the general public or place of work in order to breastfeed the child.
In States where a mother is given the right to breastfeed her child, such right includes breastfeeding such a child in an onsite daycare(s) and when such nursing mother is at work.
The states can make laws and guidelines permitting nursing mothers to breastfeed their babies in a public place irrespective of the existing federal law permitting such.
Where states are seeking to additionally protect the rights of a nursing mother to breastfeed her baby in public the state is barred from reducing or restricting the previous or subsisting laws already enacted by the federal government.
The Right to Breastfeed Where There is No Law Expressly Prohibiting a Nursing Mother from Breastfeeding Their Babies
Though many states in the US permit nursing mothers to breastfeed their babies in the public what happens in a case where there is specific law either permitting or prohibiting such?
Where there is no law expressly permitting or prohibiting the right of a nursing mother to breastfeed her child, the city or company are at the liberty to make rules or ordinance that will regulate the exercise of such right because it is already a right recognized by the federal government.
There are unlikely instances where a company is unwilling to allow a nursing mother to breastfeed the baby in the onsite daycare, then the nursing mother has the incidental right to her child outside and off company property in order to breastfeed the child.
The Summary of the Applicability and Enforcement of the Right to Breastfeed in a public place.
- Who is covered: the law permitting nursing mothers to breastfeed in public places applies to all nursing mothers except nursing mothers who are hourly employees. The nursing mothers who are hourly employees are protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
- Space: this is the onsite daycare. As fair practice employers are required to provide an onsite daycare for the employees who are nursing mothers. Such place/onsite daycare must not be a bathroom.
The onsite daycare must provide a reasonable degree of privacy for the nursing mother. In fact, no one should be able to see the inside of the onsite daycare. The onsite daycare may not be of permanent nature but employers are expected to always have an available space which will serve for such purpose.
- Time: the time frame regarding this right is usually one year commencing from the birth of the child. On the other hand, the law requires employers to afford a reasonable time for an employee who is a nursing mother as a break in order to properly breastfeed her child.
The break time for breastfeeding a child by the mother is usually an unpaid break. The time should be a reasonable time in order to enable the nursing mother to adequately breastfeed the child. Where the nursing mother is able to breastfeed her baby within her paid break hour, the employer cannot rely on that to withhold her payment.
- Enforcement: The department with the mandate to enforce the right of a nursing mother to breastfeed her baby in the public i.e “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” Law is the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) in the United States.
- Small Businesses: this law and the right it confers on nursing mothers is not intended to apply solely to the large scale enterprises.
All employers, large, small or medium scale enterprises are mandated to comply with the provisions of “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law. But a proprietor can apply for an exemption where it appears to that the small scale business is suffering an undue hardship due to the total compliance with the law.
This exemption is usually granted to a business enterprise with about 50 employees or less and the Company-Applicant must provide compelling evidence showing that the enforcement of the law is truly causing great hardship to the business and until the exemption is granted the Department of Labor, such company must continue to comply with the law.
The Glossary Of States Where Nursing Mothers Are Allowed To Publicly Breastfeed In The US
It has been reported that the fifty states which Constitute the United States have laws with specific provisions allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location.
About thirty states including the like: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Illinois,Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, District of Columbia, Virgin Islands and the Puerto Rico made an exemption from regarding breastfeeding in the public as an indecency.
Some of the states which have been so far verified are listed in tabular form as well as the law with protects such right of a nursing mother.
This study x-rayed the extent of the rights of a nursing mother to breastfeed her child while in a public place. Firstly, such right was observed to be a creation of the federal government and the states are at liberty to re-enact same. Secondly, the right was basically discussed as a labour and civil right.
This study also enumerated states in the United States where this right, notwithstanding the generality of the federal enactment, has been re-enacted.
It is important to opine that the states in the United States (about three states) that are yet to re-enact the rights of the nursing mother to breastfeed her child will be governed by the federal law which is already in force in the entire United States.
It is pertinent to further observe as a closing remark that it is inadequate to view the right of a nursing mother to breastfeed her child in the public as a right which accrues to the nursing mother. It is also inadequate to the centre such right as a labour right.
A more balanced perspective of this right is that it is an advancement on the right to life of the child who is being fed in the public.
The toll-free number of WHD is 1-800-487-9243