LFDA members divided over breastfeeding issue
No resolution seen over whether state employees should be allowed to breastfeed off premises during paid breaks
While the way individuals spend breaks at work would seem to be of little concern to an employer, such logic did not resonate with Live Free or Die Alliance Facebook members when asked their opinion regarding Katherine Frederick.
Frederick, a former employee of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, is suing the agency for denying her request to breastfeed her infant son at daycare, less than a third of a mile away from her office.
Of those who directly answered the question, “Should state employees be allowed to leave their work premises during break time to breastfeed their children?” 58 percent of respondents answered affirmatively, while 42 percent said they should not. Out of all respondents, however, 28 percent did not take a clear position and chose to discuss the topic in broader terms.
In total, the LFDA received 255 citizen responses, including specific comments from 106 individuals supported by 156 concurrences.
For those who responded affirmatively to the question, the notion that an employer possesses any right to dictate how employees should spend their break time is egregious at best.
“Who cares whether you are in the building or not when you are on break?” rhetorically noted one respondent. Remarked another, “If they have a break, they should be able to leave their workstation for any reason they like.”
Many who disagreed, though, pointed out that Frederick was on a paid break, which brings up legitimate liability concerns for any employer.
One gentleman reasoned, “Insurers of private companies often mandate that employees remain on company property for liability reasons. Had this woman been hit by a car while walking back from breastfeeding session, her family would likely sue the state.”
Other respondents elected to discuss the subject more broadly, as many questioned why women could not pump enough breast milk for daycare staff to feed infants with a bottle. In the case of Frederick, however, she had provided documentation from her medical providers that indicated her son would not feed from a bottle, which made breastfeeding imperative.
Based on the varied responses received by the LFDA, though, the issue of state employees who wish to breastfeed off premises during paid breaks would appear to not be resolvable at this time.
Rob Levey is editor of the Live Free or Die Alliance website, LFDA.org. The nonprofit, nonpartisan Live Free or Die Alliance, which takes no position on this or any other issue, presents this report not as any sort of scientific poll or survey, but rather a digest of citizen testimony. To learn more about this issue or the LFDA, visit lfda.org.