When Brandon Wright, store manager for Goodwill Industries in Lafayette, IN, learned that two of his employees were pregnant, he wasted no time letting them know that if they planned to breastfeed, he would provide them with time and space to express milk at work. For Wright, the conversation was more than merely complying with FLSA requirements under the Affordable Care Act; it was about doing the right thing to support valuable employees and help their children get a good start in life. His employees said they appreciated the easy way he began the conversation and instantly established that their family needs would be respected.
Wright found simple accommodations for Melissa and Jessilyn once they returned to work. A clean storage area was made available for them to express milk in privacy, and a simple hand-written sign was placed outside the door to indicate when it was in use. The employees took their usual breaks, and maintained open communication with their supervisor to assure that things worked well for everyone.
Wright says, “It wasn’t hard at all. It didn’t affect my day to day operations at all.” What he says it did affect was employee morale. “They [my employees] came to work knowing we respected what their rights were as women. They’re still here. I’ve retained them. I think it’s good.”
The Lafayette Goodwill store is one of thousands of companies across America who have found similar easy, low-cost solutions to supporting nursing moms at work, and are enjoying bottom-line benefits of longer retention, lower absenteeism rates due to healthier infants, and improved employee productivity. They are one of 200 companies in 29 U.S. states featured in a brand new online searchable resource for human resource managers launched at the 2014 Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference and Exposition in Orlando, Florida.
The resource, Supporting Nursing Moms at Work: Employer Solutions, was developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health. It features hundreds of solutions for businesses in all 22 industry categories, including challenging environments such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, manufacturing plants, and many others. Videos and over a thousand photos are included to highlight workable options in virtually every type of work setting.
According to Ursuline Singleton, the OWH project officer, the project is designed to give employers a wide range of options and solutions. “We know that Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers of hourly workers to provide time and space for nursing women at work. We also know that many employers simply don’t know how to do that, and need practical solutions. We established this resource to show them how it’s done all across America. We took some of the most difficult job environments and provide options that are low-cost and easy to implement.”
To learn more, visit the new website at: www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/at-work.
by Cathy Carothers, BLA, IBCLC, FILCA
Cathy is co-director of Every Mother, Inc. and project director for Every Mother’s contracts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health workplace lactation initiatives. She is the author of the HHS Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s Business Case for Breastfeeding, and was lead trainer for state-based training events in 36 U.S. states. She is past president of ILCA, immediate past chair of the United States Breastfeeding Committee, and chair of the Monetary Investment for Lactation Consultant Certification (MILCC). An experienced trainer and speaker, she has provided training programs in every U.S. state and territory and several foreign countries. She is a Fellow of ILCA and an IBCLC since 1996. She was recently honored by the National WIC Association with their 2014 National Leadership Award in the “Friend of WIC” category.
photo credit: Anne Schollenberger