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Reps. Adams & Underwood Urge the Department of Labor to Strengthen Nursing Protections in the Workplace

Nov 6, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. Congresswomen Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. (NC-12) andLauren Underwood (IL-14), the co-founders and co-chairs of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, urge the Department of Labor (DOL) to promote the nursing protections outlined in section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) for women in the workplace during COVID-19. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants, and infants and mothers who breastfeed have decreased risk for certain health conditions, including sudden death syndrome for infants and breast and ovarian cancer for mothers. As existing DOL guidance underscores, a private, non-bathroom space for nursing needs (which continues to be a protected right under the law for many workers) is critical for employees in higher risk settings, such as health care workers, during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“At this challenging and confusing time, it is critical for employers to continue to meet their responsibilities to support the health of their employees. We encourage additional action from the Department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to provide clarification and to promote awareness regarding the continued responsibility of employers and rights of employees related to nursing protections in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Reps. Adams and Underwood wrote.

Women have a right to tend to their nursing needs while on the job, and it is essential to the health of mothers and infants that employers uphold that right,” said Congresswoman Adams. “Barriers that limit breastfeeding in the workplace can have negative long-term impacts on maternal and infant health and exacerbate challenges that contribute to lower breastfeeding rates for Black women in particular. We must be sure this pandemic is not used as an excuse to skirt these essential protections, particularly as one in three jobs held by women have been deemed as essential.”

Congresswoman Adams and Congresswoman Underwood are requesting that the Department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) provide clarification and promote awareness regarding the continued responsibility of employers and rights of employees related to nursing protections in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A copy of the letter is available here.

More information on the Black Maternal Health Caucus and related legislation is available at https://blackmaternalhealthcaucus-underwood.house.gov/.

Congresswoman Alma Adams represents North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District (Charlotte) and serves as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture. Additionally, she serves on the House Financial Services Committee and the House Education & Labor Committee, where she serves as Chair of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee.

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