In Virginia, mothers have the right to breastfeed in any public or private location, as long as they are legally allowed to be there. As of July 1, 2020, the “Virginia Values Act,” went into effect and expanded Virginia’s Human Rights Act (“VHRA”). Now, breastfeeding employees are protected from discrimination.
Thanks to new laws passed in 2020, Virginia employers with five or more employees can’t discriminate on the “basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, including lactation.” Which means that employers cannot refuse “reasonable accommodations” of break time and a lactation space (that’s not a bathroom) for breastfeeding employees to pump at work. Virginia law also protects breastfeeding teachers and students by directing all school boards to provide “breaks of reasonable length” and a private space (other than a bathroom) to pump at school for up to one year. Read the laws: House Bill 827/Senate Bill 712 and Va. Code § 22.1-79.5 (2014).
BUT THERE IS STILL MORE WORK TO DO!
Virginia still needs state law that protects all working breastfeeding mothers AND additional state legislation protects specific populations OR mandates lactation accommodations for specific locations.
The gold standard. State law protects all working breastfeeding mothers, identifies standards for lactation spaces (e.g., access to a refrigerator), AND additional state legislation protects specific populations AND mandates lactation accommodations for specific locations.
Find out more about how workplace breastfeeding laws benefit employers and Virginia families below.
The ACLU’s Know Your Rights booklet provides effective and useful guidance for pregnant, post-partum, and breastfeeding workers in a user-friendly, question and answer format. You can also consult the ACLU’s overview of federal employment laws that apply when pregnant or breastfeeding on the job, as well as the Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet #73: Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA.
Read the Center for Worklife Law's Workplace Lactation guide here.
Fewer Than 1 in 5 Working Moms Who Breastfeed Know Their Rights in the Workplace (source)
More than half (52%) do not know that they are legally entitled to a room to pump or express milk for a full year after giving birth.
They are also not aware this room needs to have shades or no windows (54%) and have a lock (42%).
Other rights include access to running water and access to a refrigerator to store milk. Shockingly,
11% of working moms mistakenly believe they are entitled to none of these protections.
But Virginia employers and employees can work together to do better with the national and state resources below:
In 2010, Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was amended to require employers to provide basic accommodations, such as time and space, for breastfeeding mothers at work. The resource above guides employers to create lactation-friendly workplaces and therefore, compliance with the law.
See The Business Case for Breastfeeding report, to the right, and more resources to support employers and employees below.
Virginia is proud to host over 169,000 employers in our commonwealth and the Virginia Breastfeeding Coalition, as an educational nonprofit supporting lifelong wellness through breastfeeding, is dedicated to supporting breastfeeding in Virginia.
The 2019 legislative session, HB1916 was passed, promoting Virginia state agencies into leadership positions on providing breastfeeding-friendly workplaces. A federal law is being considered now for federal buildings, and a national movement, with new studies and insights, push the nation towards helping all employers accommodate nursing mothers.
The Business Case for Breastfeeding graphic above will lead employers to a complete guide on implementing a lactation-friendly workplace, while the links below provide more insight into laws, toolkits, resources and support for professionals, educators, mothers and human resources departments.
Please contact us if you know of a resource that should appear here.
Virginia Law - Workplace Breastfeeding Rights
Va. Code § 2.2-3903 - Employers with more than five but fewer than fifteen employees may not terminate a female employee on the basis of lactation.
Please visit our newsroom to see legislative alerts.
State Level Workplace Breastfeeding Rights – US Department of Labor
Hampton Roads Breastfeeding Education and Advocacy Team, HR-BEAT. If you are in the Hampton Roads area, you may use this form to report any incidences regarding women's breastfeeding rights.
Virginia Department of Health. Report your breastfeeding incident on their contact page.
WHY WE SHOULD SUPPORT WORKPLACE BREASTFEEDING?
Advancing Support For Women To Combine Their Productive And Reproductive Roles Including Breastfeeding In The Informal Economy. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, in partnership with the People's Health Movement, has published a joint statement in honor of World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Titled "Advancing Support For Women To Combine Their Productive And Reproductive Roles Including Breastfeeding In The Informal Economy," the publication calls for the safety and health of women in the informal economy. The statement includes information about the need for workplace maternity support in all workplaces, including informal ones. It also highlights two global examples of lactation support women can receive in their workplaces.
Exploring Human Resource Managers’ Decision-Making Process for Workplace Breastfeeding-Support Benefits Following the Passage of the Affordable Care Act. Maternal and Child Health Journal; June 21, 2019.
How Can We Reduce Workplace Bias Against Caregivers? University of California, Center for Worklife Law
EXPLOSED: Discrimination Against Breastfeeding Workers. This first comprehensive report on breastfeeding discrimination reveals widespread and devastating consequences for breastfeeding workers.
Promoting Worker Well-Being through Maternal and Child Health: Breastfeeding Accommodations in the Workplace. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blog on February 11, 2019.
NATIONAL WORKPLACE BREASTFEEDING-FRIENDLY RESOURCES
A Better Balance. A Better Balance runs a free legal hotline to support pregnant and parenting workers. If you have questions about your breastfeeding rights at work, simply call their free, confidential hotline at 833-NEED-ABB (833-633-3222).
Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law. See the Center for Worklife Law's extensive study into the limited provisions of this law.
EXPOSED: Discrimination Against Breastfeeding Workers. This first comprehensive report on breastfeeding discrimination reveals widespread and devastating consequences for breastfeeding workers.
Parents at Work Advocacy Tool. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action has launched the "Parents at Work Advocacy Tool." The tool summarizes information about nationally mandated leave (maternity, paternity, and parental) and breastfeeding breaks in 195 countries. The tool is available as a full overview or broken down by region. Out of 195 countries studied, paternity and parental leave are only available in 100 and 66 countries respectively, and most countries offer at least some paid maternity leave. Progress is slow in meeting the World Health Organization recommendation for the provision of at least 6 months paid leave to support exclusive breastfeeding. Approximately half of the countries worldwide meet the International Labour Organization standards, including 47% of low-income countries, 43% of middle-income countries, and 77% of high-income countries.
United States Breastfeeding Committee -See a full list of the federal law, provisions and FAQs here.
The Business Case for Breastfeeding. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HRSA). Worksite lactation support information and toolkit for employers and employees.
What Employers Need to Know – US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women’s Health
Investing In Workplace Breastfeeding Programs and Policies, from the National Business Group on Health
The Johns Hopkins Breastfeeding Support Program is an innovative, employer-sponsored approach to support its working families. The program features full-service Mother’s Rooms complete with hospital-grade breast pumps, a breast-feeding support program coordinator, online resources for mothers, education and consultation for managers, and the first known vending machine with breast-feeding supplies offered at an employee discount.
The Business Case for Breastfeeding: Implementing a Lactation Support Program for any Workplace. An excellent and helpful presentation on Breastfeeding in the Workplace Initiative by the New Mexico Department of Health.
Watch this short video to see how beneficial and simple it can be to create a breastfeeding-friendly space in your worksite.
Employer Perspective on Accommodating Breastfeeding Employees, by the Colorado Breastfeeding Coalition. An employer and a breastfeeding employee share their story about how and why they made their workplace mother-friendly.