Buffalo, NY - A Buffalo attorney says the number of cases involving pregnancy discrimination complaints in the workplace has doubled in Western New York in recent years. And, she is concerned because many of the complaints involve the right to breastfeed at work.
Attorney Lindy Korn hopes new federal guidelines issued this week will benefit new moms.
"There were jokes about her being a cow who was milking. So, I'm trying to tell you that not only is there a complaint, but then there's no response, and then there's harassment," says Korn.
Korn is talking about a Pennsylvania case where an employer told an employee she could breastfeed in a dirty bathroom or a room filled with bugs. Korn says this lawsuit mirrors many of her cases.
"What I'm seeing is a pregnant woman being told you're pregnant, we can't accommodate you, and why don't you stay home a little bit longer," she says.
Right now, Korn has two active cases involving the right to breastfeed or pump at work.
"They have to have a place to store their breast milk, which I've known to be an issue," she says. "And, I think there's also a thought that this is something that belongs at home."
Even though the Affordable Care Act includes provisions to protect breastfeeding women, federal guidelines released this week should better protect women from harassment and discrimination at work.
"It is a cost and an inconvenience, and it may very well be for somebody's business, but again we have laws that say this is illegal," explains Korn.
Korn has seen many new moms in Western New York leave really good paying jobs because the stress of how they were being treated at work started impacting their physical and emotional health.
"Everyone comes from some woman somewhere, so I don't really understand the attitude," says Korn.
Korn also told us that Buffalo has several board certified lactation consultants. She thinks that because of the new EEOC guidelines, they will be called upon to help companies develop HR policies to give women the space and time they need to breastfeed.