Texas Law and Breastfeeding Rights: What Are the Protections?

Understanding Texas Law on Breastfeeding

In Texas, the rights of breastfeeding mothers are protected by law to ensure that they can provide nutrition to their infants without facing discrimination or undue hardship. The state has enacted specific statutes that safeguard the practice of breastfeeding in both public and private settings, reflecting a broader recognition of its importance for child health and maternal well-being.

Breastfeeding in Public Places

Under Texas Health and Safety Code, Section 165.002, a mother is entitled to breastfeed her baby in any location where she is authorized to be. This law asserts that a mother's right to feed her child takes precedence, irrespective of whether the nipple is exposed during or incidental to the feeding process. The statute eliminates any ambiguity about the legality of breastfeeding in public spaces, thereby empowering mothers to nurse their children without fear of legal repercussion.

Workplace Accommodations for Breastfeeding

When it comes to the workplace, Texas labor laws have provisions that support breastfeeding employees. According to the Texas Government Code, Section 619.002, employers must provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child. The law stipulates that this accommodation should be offered for up to one year after the child's birth. In addition to break time, employers are required to make efforts to provide a private space, other than a bathroom, where an employee can express breast milk undisturbed.

Exemptions from Jury Duty

Texas law also acknowledges the unique needs of breastfeeding mothers when it comes to mandatory civic duties like jury service. Under the Government Code, Section 62.106, a woman who is breastfeeding her child can request an exemption from jury duty simply by submitting a request to the court.

Historical Context and Examples

The evolution of breastfeeding rights in Texas can be seen as part of a broader societal shift towards recognizing and accommodating the needs of working mothers. Prior to these laws, women often faced challenges when attempting to balance work responsibilities with their right to breastfeed. For instance, before workplace accommodations were mandated, many mothers had no choice but to express milk in unsanitary conditions or forego breastfeeding altogether during work hours.

One landmark example that highlights the importance of such legislation took place in 2006 when Emily Gillette was removed from an airplane for breastfeeding her child without a cover. This incident sparked outrage and led to increased advocacy for breastfeeding rights across the United States. Although this incident did not occur in Texas, it underscores the societal need for clear legal protections for breastfeeding mothers.

Conclusion

Texas law provides robust protections for breastfeeding mothers, ensuring their right to nurse in public places, receive workplace accommodations, and obtain exemptions from jury duty if necessary. These laws represent a significant step forward in supporting maternal and child health while promoting a more inclusive society that respects the rights of working parents.