Women in the Law

Back from Maternity Leave, Lawyer Researches Pump-at-Work Laws


An associate at Fox Rothschild who returned from maternity leave was presented with a much-needed present from her secretary: a sign reading, “Do not enter-privacy please,” to hang on her door during pumping breaks.

Writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, lawyer Beth Throne said not all employees are so lucky, including lawyers at other firms. “A friend of mine told me her (female) law partner routinely disregarded her closed door—and the pumping sounds that could be heard through it,” Throne writes. “My friend had no choice but to discard any expectation of privacy.”

The comment led Throne to research right-to-pump laws. She discovered that 48 states protect a woman’s right to breast feed a baby in any location. But less than half the states have “right to pump at work” laws requiring breaks for nursing mothers to pump and store breast milk. Pennsylvania is not among them.

Throne advises employees in states without such laws to have a frank discussion with their employers about expectations of privacy, and to decide when and where breaks will occur.

“While having this discussion with your employer may be even more awkward than the ‘I’m pregnant’ meeting, it should take place,” she writes. “Now all that’s left is balancing the competing demands of employment and parenthood. But that’s another story.”

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