This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY — Women across the nation are fighting against employers that they claim are not providing appropriate breastfeeding facilities for working mothers.
Working women, like Bobbi Bockoras of Port Allegany, Pa., are holding employers legally accountable for creating a clean and private space for pumping breast milk. The 2010 Affordable Care Act requires qualifying employers to provide hourly employees with a place to express milk – approximately every 2 to 3 hours – and a reasonable break time to do so.
Under the law, employers of more than 50 employees must provide:
“(A) 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; and
“(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.”
For small companies — those with fewer than 50 employees — there is a caveat:
"Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to the FLSA break time requirement if the employer can demonstrate that compliance with the provision would impose an undue hardship. Whether compliance would be an undue hardship is determined by looking at the difficulty or expense of compliance for a specific employer in comparison to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer's business."
Bockoras is the first woman to file a lawsuit under the 2010 ACA provisions about breastfeeding.
She claims that when she returned to work in June 2013 after the birth of her daughter, the glass factory at which she worked did not have the required area for her to pump. In a text message before her return, she asked her supervisor at Verallia North America about pumping and was told she could pump in the bathroom.
When she told human resources that a bathroom did not meet the ACA’s requirements, she was told to pump in the first aid room. She claims she was frequently interrupted by male coworkers yelling and pounding on the door “in order to harass her,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Finally, she was told she could use an old locker room for her breastfeeding needs. ACLU said the floor of the room was dirty and littered with dead bugs, with a single chair for Bockoras. Coworkers continued the alleged harassment, bringing her a bucket and comparing her to a cow being milked and on another occasion, slathering the door handle of the locker room with grease and metal shards. ACLU wrote that the latter was a common prank at the factory.
“Verallia has failed to take these instances seriously and has taken no substantial steps to remedy or deter the harassment experienced by Ms. Bockoras. Her supervisor told her that he did not consider these incidents to be harassment,” the lawsuit read.
Upon another complaint to her supervisors, Bockoras’ daytime shift was changed to a rotating schedule that frequently required her to work overnight. She claims the schedule disrupted her breastfeeding, making her unable to produce enough milk for her child.
Breastfeeding is on the rise
In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control reported 77 percent of American mothers tried breastfeeding in 2010, compared to 71 percent in 2000. Of those who tried breastfeeding, 27 percent were still breastfeeding a year later. In 2000, only 16 percent of mothers were still breastfeeding at that point.
In Utah, 83.1 percent of women had tried breastfeeding and 36.8 percent were still doing so one year later.
Under the 2010 ACA provisions, breastfeeding counseling, support and equipment – such as breast pumps – are covered except under grandfathered plans.
As breastfeeding has become more common, activists continued to push the “Breast is Best” initiative.