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Donnicia Venters, a mom from Houston, TX, lost her job in 2009 simply for following medical advice to breastfeed her infant.  When Donnicia told her boss about her pregnancy, he assured her that her position would still be available for her after she returned from her short maternity leave. But once Donnicia informed her boss that she was breastfeeding her new baby and would need a place to pump milk while at work, he suddenly changed his mind and fired her. [1]

And yesterday, a Houston judge ruled that her firing was not a case of gender discrimination because "...lactation is not a pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition".[2]

Well, that's news to us!

Stand up for Donnicia and all new mothers.  No one should have to choose between their job and breastfeeding.  

*Ask your members of Congress to support the Breastfeeding Promotion Act today:  http://action.momsrising.org/letter/BreastfeedingPromotionActPush3

How would passing the Breastfeeding Promotion Act help moms like Donnicia?

The Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2011 (HR 2758) would help make breastfeeding more accessible to new mothers in the workforce by ensuring that all mothers who want to breastfeed can have unpaid time and private, clean spaces to express milk at work. If passed, the bill would also protect breastfeeding women from being fired or discriminated against in the workplace.[3]

While we are making progress in supporting nursing mothers, we're not moving fast enough.  Thanks to new protections included in the Affordable Care Act (health care reform), Donnicia’s employer would have been required to provide unpaid break time and a clean space for pumping if she had had her baby today.

However, these new rules in the Affordable Care Act only cover "non-exempt" workers (generally those paid hourly wages), rather than those who have salaried positions.[4] As a result, approximately half of new mothers in the workforce are unprotected, which is why we need Congress to pass the Breastfeeding Promotion Act.[5]

Approximately 56% of new mothers in our country are now in the paid labor force and Donnicia's case is a clear example of why we need uniform workplace policies to provide all mothers with the option to continue to breastfeed their babies.[6]

Many working mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies, as is recommended by doctors, report that they had to stop because it was not possible to pump breast milk while at work. While 3 out of 4 women in the U.S. breastfeed their infants at birth, only 13% are exclusively breastfeeding at six months as recommended by every major national and international medical authority.[7]  In fact, breastfeeding rates for employed mothers are 15% lower than among non-employed mothers.[8]Women who want to and can breastfeed deserve support for doing what doctors recommend.  And we all have a stake in supporting new mothers who wish to breastfeed. Nationally, we could save $2.2 billion per year in health care costs if 90% of women breastfed their infants exclusively for at least the first six months as pediatricians recommend.[9]  Individual employers who have actively supported workplace lactation programs have saved money through lower health care costs and reduced absenteeism.[10]

*Use our one-click tool to ask your Member of Congress to co-sponsor the Breastfeeding Promotion Act!  http://action.momsrising.org/letter/BreastfeedingPromotionActPush3

Congress needs to hear from moms!  We understand how terrible it is to have to choose between the job you need and the health of the child you love. Your letters to Congress will demonstrate strong support for this pending bill and help educate our elected officials about a critical way to support new mothers, give guidance to employers and help curb rising medical costs in our country.

Please take a moment to share Donnicia's story with your friends and urge them to stand up for her and all new mothers who are like her by sharing this blogpost and posting this action on Facebook (you can use the buttons below).

Together, we are a powerful force for mothers and families!

 

[1] ABC News, "Judge Backs Firing of Breastpumping Worker," Feburary 8, 2012

[2] Ibid.

[3] HR 2758

[4] Deparment of Labor Fact Sheet, "Break Time for Nursing Mothers," December 2010

[5] Institute for Women’s Policy Research, December 2010

[6] Department of Labor, Employment Characteristics of Families – 2010

[7] U.S. Surgeon General, Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, FAQ

[8] Institute for Women’s Policy Research, December 2010

[9] Pediatrics, April 2010

[10] CIGNA, Press Release, June 2000


The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of MomsRising.org

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