Texas

Texas Working Moms Get New Protections For Breastfeeding

A new Texas law takes effect September 1 that closes a loophole for working moms who breastfeed.

photo of a baby drinking bottleA new law takes effect September 1 that closes a loophole for working moms who breastfeed. The Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide reasonable breaks for breastfeeding mothers so they can pump at work. It also requires employers to provide a private space shielded from view. A restroom, even if private, is not considered acceptable.

But the federal law only applies to hourly workers, not white collar workers. That means many public employees in Texas, including teachers, police officers, and women who work for state agencies, were left to figure out office pumping policies on a case by case basis.

Anna Smith was a kindergarten teacher in Marlin, Texas, near Waco, when she had a baby in 2012. Smith testified before a Texas Legislative committee back in April, saying at first her principal gave her permission to pump at work. (Testimony by Anna Smith begins at the 4:13:00 mark).

“He was supportive for the first two weeks of the school year, and then one day no one showed up to relieve me for my break. I was in pain. I talked with the principal and he informed me that he could no longer provide me relief for me to pump for my baby. I told him that I was not going to stop providing breastmilk for my baby and that I needed that break in the afternoon, or I would have to resign. He allowed me to resign,” said Smith.

The new Texas law clears up the confusion for public agencies. Now all public employees will have the right to take breaks and pump at work in private. But Krisdee Donmoyer with the Texas Breastfeeding Coalition said an amendment was tagged onto the Texas law at the last minute that allows employers to designate single-stall restrooms as a private space for pumping.

“I’m very hopeful that the majority, if not all of the employers, will realize that a restroom is nowhere to make a meal,” said Donmoyer, who is the Texas Breastfeeding Coalition’s Legislative Committee Chair.

Many large public employers already comply with the new law, including the City of Houston, HISD and the University of Houston, which have had lactation policies on the books for a couple of years.

But in smaller municipalities and school districts, like the one Anna Smith worked for, it means some Texas women will no longer have to choose between breastfeeding and a career.

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Laurie Johnson

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Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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