Mother’s Day is a time for us all to celebrate parents and caregivers – and that should include offering new mothers, pregnant persons, and breastfeeding parents the support and accommodations they need at work, at school, or elsewhere in their lives.

As a mother of twins, I’ve been fortunate to work at places like the ACLU of Illinois that accommodated my pregnancy, my decision to pump breast milk at work, and my needs as a working parent. Unfortunately, workplace discrimination and retaliation are all too common for pregnant or breastfeeding employees in our state and throughout our country.

At the ACLU of Illinois, we’ve fought to pass state laws requiring workplace accommodations and paid pumping breaks. We’ve sued on behalf of women like Jennifer Panattoni, a police officer who was denied light duty for her pregnancy and had to patrol the streets until she was 5 months pregnant, and Sarah Spriesch, a paramedic who was routinely placed at firehouses where she had to pump in a dirty restroom.

While not every parent can or wishes to breastfeed, for those who do, it can be challenging to participate in public life because any extended time away from your infant requires finding a private, non-restroom place to pump. This is why we challenge discrimination against breastfeeding parents like Judith Miller, who was denied the opportunity to serve on a jury because she needed accommodations for pumping breast milk. And this year, we helped pass laws requiring state courthouses and the State Capitol to make lactation spaces available to nursing parents who need them.

But there’s still a long way to go. New moms behind bars often encounter major barriers to pumping or breastfeeding, even though it can be an important way to maintain the mother-baby bond. If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or recovering from childbirth, it’s important to know your rights and speak up for the accommodations you need.

Here are a few things you should know:

  • You have the right to be free from discrimination or retaliation based on your pregnancy, childbirth, or related condition – at work, at school, or in places of public accommodation.
  • You have the right to reasonable accommodations at work for pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions:
    • For example, this could include bathroom breaks, seating, help with manual labor, or time off to recover from childbirth.
    • For breastfeeding, this includes break time for pumping without reduced compensation; a private non-restroom space; and a place to safely store your breast milk.
  • If you choose to breastfeed, you have the right to breastfeed in any place (public or private) where you and your baby are otherwise allowed to be.
  • You have the right not to be denied access to a place of public accommodation (such as a store, restaurant, park, or library) because you are breastfeeding or because you asked for accommodations to breastfeed or pump breast milk.

If you experience discrimination, denials of accommodations, or retaliation based on pregnancy, breastfeeding or pumping, childbirth, or related conditions, we want to hear from you. Please share your story with us!

Stay informed

ACLU of Illinois is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National