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Is lactation discrimination the new pregnancy discrimination?

A congressional push to raise the minimum wage generally and President Obama's announcement that he will seek by executive order to raise the minimum wage of workers tied to federal contracts have recently sparked a vigorous public debate on a number of wage and hour issues. This debate is necessary and will hopefully result in positive developments for the lives of workers.

However, it is important not to forget about other issues currently affecting workers simply because the media is focusing a great deal of attention on certain wage and hour issues. For example, one form of pregnancy discrimination is becoming increasingly pervasive in the American workplace. And though the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), state lawmakers and employment attorneys are trying to reverse this trend, public awareness will likely need to play a key role in ensuring that lactation discrimination does not become as widespread as other forms of pregnancy discrimination once were.

A specific provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as "Obamacare," specifies that lactating women need to be given adequate and private space other than a bathroom in which to pump breast milk while they are at work. This protection extends to mothers for one year following the birth of their children. However, many employers are failing to respect this new legal protection and mothers are being forced to either face retaliation for insisting that their rights be respected or forego breast feeding.

Though many forms of pregnancy discrimination still exist in the American workplace, they are less pervasive than they once were. It is important that the public speaks out against lactation discrimination and that workers stand up for their rights on this issue before this kind of discrimination becomes as widespread as other forms of pregnancy-related discrimination have been in the past.

Source: NBC News, "Pumped up: Breastfeeding mothers fight for rights at work," Allison Yarrow, Jan. 11, 2014

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