A new workplace law in Philadelphia mandates that employers provide a clean place for mothers to express breast milk.
Mayor Michael Nutter signed the bill Wednesday, mandating a fine of up to $2,000 and other penalties for employers who do not provide clean non-bathroom space for a woman to express, or pump, breast milk.
Councilman David Oh, who introduced the bill in City Council, said there were some federal regulations on the books, but they needed to be strengthened.
“The problem has been, what is the penalty? And that is wage loss. If you were denied the ability to express milk and there is no wage loss, there was no enforcement opportunity,” he said. “So this really is very important for our city and our state to take up this cause to insure the law is clear and there is enforceable action behind it.”
Joanne Fischer, executive director of the Maternity Care Coalition, explained the need for a place beyond a bathroom.
You wouldn’t want to eat in a bathroom, she said, and mothers don’t want to pump milk there.
“The Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies are breastfed for a year,” Fischer said. “So, in order to accomplish that goal, women need really serious support from family from friends from neighbors and from the workplace.”
Letizia Amadini-Lane, a vice president with GlaxoSmithKline, said the company has been providing the rooms for more than a decade, and it’s good for employees.
“GSK supports and provides a vibrant working environment, a flexible working environment, where working mothers don’t have to make a choice between what is right for the child and coming back to the workforce,” she said.
Supporters say the bill is important move in the area of workplace rights.