November 18, 2022

Breastfeeding in the Era of Zoom

If you’ve been a long-time reader of our blog, you’ll know that pregnancy and motherhood issues have been a source of many of our posts, long before coronavirus upended home and work life. High among the myriad issues related to employment and motherhood is that of breastfeeding. Many workplaces do not provide mothers with appropriate facilities or time to pump or nurse and others publicly shame mothers and even fire them. It has been the source of several lawsuits that we’ve covered, such as this one brought against Frontier Airlines by women flight attendants and pilots.

Obviously, things have changed dramatically since we wrote about the Frontier Airline suit, but one thing that hasn’t changed is how triggering breastfeeding seems to be. And in the era when many office jobs and classrooms have transitioned to video conferencing software and the home/work boundary continues to blur, it has become a source of major contention. Case in point is a recent story that caught our attention involving a student at Fresno City College, who was publicly called out by her professor for simply asking if she could turn her video off during a lecture to feed her 10-month old.

Not only did the professor, who instituted a requirement of video remaining on during the entirety of his 4-hour lecture, deny her request, according to Marcella Mares, the mother, he discussed the issue in a lecture, referring to it as one of a number of “inappropriate things” not allowed during class. Upon investigation by the college, it was clear that Mares’s rights under Title IX and California State law had been violated.

The switch to remote work since the pandemic began has been a period of rapid adjustment for many office workers and students. There are endless lists and think pieces about proper Zoom etiquette or attire, not to mention the trend toward women being heard even less. Should I eat while my professor lectures? Do I need to wear a tie to the team meeting? Can I turn my video off because there are other people in the house? Breastfeeding is indeed among these questions and with the workplace and the home now virtually the same thing, we foresee this not being the last time we read about mothers put on the spot because someone isn’t comfortable with a mother feeding her child.

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