Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Do we really need a breastfeeding discrimination law?

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog ran a post about a teacher fired from her job, allegedly because she spent too much time lactating for her newborn child.

Heather Burgbacher, a teacher at a charter school in Jefferson County, Colorado, has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She alleges that while she had received consistently positive workplace reviews for years the school this year failed to renew her contract because of conflicts over her breast pumping schedule.... The teacher last year had to miss class for about 20 minutes, three times a week, to pump, during which time her students did “supervised deskwork,” according to the statement.

No doubt, breastfeeding advocates will use this story as ammunition in their fight for the passage of the Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2011. That bill would insert "lactation" into Title VII's definition of sex.

Unless I'm missing something, aren't women the only sex that can lactate? No men are being fired for taking too many milk-pumping breaks during the workday. Moreover, the law already protects lactation rights. Title VII prohibits discrimination because of pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions. Unless there is some bizarro employer out there that does not permit employees to take short breaks during the day for any reason, any employer that punishes a woman for lactating already will be violating Title VII. Also, the the FLSA already requires that employers provide breastfeeding women reasonable break times to lactate.

Simply, the Breastfeeding Promotion Act is a redundancy with which we do not need to burden our already overly burdened businesses.