If you feel you’ve been discriminated against for breastfeeding in a public place in Connecticut, a lawyer at the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities would like to hear about it. Kimberly Jacobsen is a Human Rights Attorney for the state agency, and she has a special interest in cases involving breastfeeding discrimination. This guest post by Kimberly gives guidance on the state law involving breastfeeding, and steps you can take if you feel you’ve been discriminated against.
I work as a Human Rights Attorney for the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”), the state agency that handles discrimination complaints. State law allows mothers the right to breastfeed in places of public accommodation, such as a store, library or restaurant, without interference. Mothers can generally breastfeed at a time, place and manner of their choosing while in public. They do not have to go to a special area or go into the restroom. They do not have to cover the baby with a towel or blanket. The owner, manager or employee of a place of public accommodation cannot request that the mother stop breastfeeding her baby, cover up, move to a different room or area, or leave.
It is also the CHRO’s position that a woman cannot be subjected to an adverse employment action as a result of expressing breastmilk at work. That means it is illegal to harass, terminate, reduce hours or demote a woman because she is expressing breast milk during work hours.
If someone from a place of public accommodation has interfered with a mother breastfeeding her child, or if a woman is subject to an adverse employment action because she is expressing breastmilk at work, she can file a complaint with the CHRO. To determine where to file,visit http://www.ct.gov/chro/cwp/view.asp?a=2523&Q=315790.
Complaints generally need to be filed with the CHRO within 180 days of the incident. There is no cost to file a complaint. After a complaint is filed it is served on the Respondent and then the CHRO reviews it to make sure there is jurisdiction to go forward. The CHRO will then try to mediate the case. Cases could settle for changes in policies, donations to non-profits, education of employees and sometimes money for the person filing the complaint. If the case does not settle, the CHRO will investigate the complaint. If the CHRO finds that a reasonable person could believe the woman was discriminated against the case will go to public hearing. Women should understand that filing a complaint with the CHRO is similar to filing a lawsuit. Civil laws are only meaningful when citizens act to enforce them. The ability to breastfeed without interference is so important to our children but it is also a civil right. If you have any questions please contact our one of our regional offices or you can email me at Kimberly.Jacobsen@ct.gov.
State law also requires employers to give lactating employees a space and time to express breastmilk; however, this may be dependent on the size of the employer. If you are unable to navigate this issue on your own the state’s Department of Labor may be able to assist. A link to their complaint form is here: http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/wgwkstnd/forms/DOL-80.doc
Kimberly Jacobsen is a Human Rights Attorney at the CHRO. She prosecutes discrimination claims through the Office of Public Hearings and in state courts. She is especially interested in housing discrimination, breastfeeding rights and mediation. In the spring of 2014 the Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal published an article she wrote titled “They Can Pump Up the Volume but Can They Pump Out Their Milk? Public Secondary Schools Should be Required to Accommodate Lactating Students.” See, https://cpilj.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/13-conn-pub-int-l-j-179.pdf
Michal Klau-Stevens is The Birth Lady. She is the creator of the Mastering Maternity™ system, a program that helps expectant parents confidently approach pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, early parenting, and navigating the maternity healthcare system. She is a maternity consultant, pregnancy coach, consumer advocate on maternity care issues, Past President of BirthNetwork National, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and mother. Her website is TheBirthLady.INFO. Find her on Facebook at The Birth Lady page!
Click here to receive a FREE mini-guide by email and to receive more tools and information on mastering maternity.