breast-feeding.jpgThere’s been a lot of talk in recent days that the Supreme Court may strike down health care reform, but killing the law in its entirety will hurt working mothers across the country.

Tucked into reform was a new provision known as the Breast Feeding Act and it’s already helping to make breast-feeding at work easier.

The Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in March 2010, amended the Fair Labor Standards Act, and for the first time employers are now federally mandated to provide women with breaks and a place to breastfeed. The final rules regarding the law have not been finalized, but that hasn’t stopped the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division’s enforcers from going after employers who don’t make accommodations for working moms who want to pump.

This one provision in the law was among the few that got bipartisan support and it would clearly turn back the clock on a key advancement for women in the workplace if it went down with the health-reform ship.

How are the justices on the high court leaning? There was one mention by a justice I found from the recent hearing about the act.

This is from a Guardian article about deliberations:

Justice Breyer argued that there are many aspects of the legislation not directly related to the individual mandate. “I would say the Breast Feeding Act, the getting doctors to serve underserved areas, the biosimilar thing and drug regulation… those have nothing to do with the stuff that we’ve been talking about yesterday and the day before, okay? So if you ask me at that level, I would say, sure, they have nothing to do with it, they could stand on their own,” he said.

I’ve been surprised that I haven’t heard an uproar yet from groups that support breast feeding, or at least a call to keep the breast feeding mandates the law of the land.

When I wrote a story on the new provision earlier this year, Department of Labor spokeswoman Sonia Melendez told me:

“The department intends to continue enforcing the law based on the statutory language,” she said. “Until the department issues final guidance, the request for information provides useful information for employers to consider in establishing policies for nursing employees.”

I emailed her this morning to see if they plan any changes.

Employers haven’t been about to sit on the sidelines and wait for the final rules because the Labor Department may slap a fine on a company or at least force it to make breast-feeding accommodations.

“It’s been the law for a while and they don’t have to have the final regulations to be able to enforce it,” said Carrie Hoffman, a partner with Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP in Dallas, who represents employers.

We will see if it remains the law.

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