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What recourse does an RN, who is a breast-feeding mom, have if the unit where she works is so understaffed she cannot take breaks to pump milk?

Question:

Dear Nancy,

I am a breastfeeding mom and work 12-hour shifts on a busy rehab floor. A new company bought our hospital and the staffing grid has changed. I do not feel safe leaving the floor to pump. There are two nurses for 14 busy patients and no tech, which would leave one nurse for 14 acute rehab patients. This is so upsetting, I have been depressed. What are
my rights?

Lilian

Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Lilian,

It sounds as though the problem in your situation is not that you have not been given the time to pump breast milk, as required by the U.S. Department of Labor/Wage and Hour Division, but that the staffing is not adequate so you can feel safe to leave the floor to do so. Because allowing a mother to pump breast milk is required, you may be able to resolve this problem by speaking with your CNO and ask for another staff member — nurse or tech — to be added to the shift or at least have the staff member be available when you do leave the unit so coverage is better. Information about this employer obligation can be reviewed at (www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs73.pdf).

You did not mention when your baby was born, but another option for you is to apply for a leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. The employer is required to allow such a leave for the care of a new child for up to 12 weeks, paid or unpaid, if the employer is covered under the Act. This would allow you some time to be at home, take care of your newborn and hopefully overcome the depression you are feeling over the conflict of needing to pump breast milk and, at the same time, being concerned for the safety and well-being of your patients and fellow nurse colleague. You can learn more about the Act at (www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/).

There may be state laws as well requiring the employer to provide you with break time to perform breast milk pumping. Allowing you the time to do so, but not having adequate staffing to cover while you are off the unit, arguably nullifies the right. It wouldn’t hurt to seek the a consultation with a nurse attorney or other attorney in your state who can specifically analyze your situation and perhaps intervene to change the staffing levels on your shift so you can perform this important function and also continue to fulfill your professional duties in a conflict-free manner.

Regards, Nancy

By | 2014-11-19T00:00:00-05:00 November 19th, 2014|Categories: Blogs, Nursing careers and jobs|0 Comments

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