On Wednesday, Mayor Michael A. Nutter enacted legislation that directly will impact the lives of Philadelphia’s nursing mothers and their families.
Before an audience of lawmakers, advocates, industry and civic leaders, the mayor signed Bill No. 130922, making it mandatory for all businesses to provide a safe, private and sanitary space for female employees who need to pump milk from their breasts.
The legislation, authored by City Councilman David Oh, takes effect immediately and its enforcement falls to PCHR.
“This is an incredibly important day because now PCHR has a new tool to use to ensure that the rights of all workers are respected,” said PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau, who emceed the bill signing ceremony. She had testified on the merits of the legislation during hearings last June.
“Before when we would receive these kinds of complaints, they fell under the broader term of ‘sex discrimination,’ which is more difficult to investigate and prove,” Landau said. “Now, there is a clear mandate for employers and employees, so that everyone understands what is required. And women should no longer be afraid to assert their rights. This is the law. Clear and simple.”
Complaints should be filed with PCHR. Fines up to $2,000 may be issued to those who break the law.
Breastfeeding has clear scientific benefits for children, including preventing illness. Nationally, 1 in 3 parents of young children fear losing pay or their jobs should they take off to care for sick children, according to a recent study by the University of Michigan and the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
Still, being able to express milk at work without ridicule, stress or harassment has been an ongoing concern for women, said JoAnne Fischer, executive director of the Maternity Care Coalition.
Nursing mothers often have abandoned breastfeeding once they return to work, facing difficulties ranging from scheduling pumping breaks to unsupportive and even abusive co-workers and supervisors.
In Pennsylvania, only about 32 percent of mothers exclusively breastfeed their infants during their first three months; by six months, that tally dropped to about 16 percent, nearly half, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“Now women don’t have to make a choice between doing what’s best for their children and returning to work,” said Letizia Amadini Lane, GSK vice president of employee value proposition. “They can lead and live a great life, a balanced life.”
The global pharmaceutical giant with Philadelphia offices already has instituted quiet nursing areas for mothers who need to express milk, and Amadini Lane urged the city’s other corporate citizens to follow GSK’s lead and applauded the enactment.
The legislation, she added, “is the right thing to do for children, who are our leaders of tomorrow and for mothers, who are our leaders of today.”
Watch the event.