Gold star for Oklahoma

Feb 12 2008 by Derek Torres Print This Article

You may have recalled a past blog piece last year in which I noted that the state of New York had recognize that mothers with small children need to be able nurse (i.e breastfeed) during the day.

Since then, it seems that an ever-increasing number of states that are making provisions for breast-feeding mothers in the workplace. Not content to just offer the bare minimum, a few rare pearls, such as Oklahoma are taking things one (or two) steps further.

Currently, state law requires only that employers give mothers the option of nursing during their lunch breaks or during unpaid breaks. Perhaps realizing that this law offered very little beyond "you can do it and won't get fired for it", Oklahoma introduced new programs to encourage both mothers and employers to make every effort to make a good situation for everyone.

Companies in Oklahoma are now recognized for their efforts in promoting breast-feeding and its awareness. To be recognized, a company has to offer flexible break times for mothers to handle their business as well as a clean, private area with a sink nearby. A written policy on breast-feeding must be on display for employees to consult.

In case you are feeling that you should do more, your company can earn a "gold star", which means that you go beyond what's required for recognition and even offer a refrigerator to store breast milk and a hospital-grade breast pump.

I've read enough reader commentary to see that there is some reticence about adopting such policies, but I'm not sure I understand why. Most comments seem to be worried about women milking the situation (no pun intended) and using it to get out of work. That's simply a ridiculous argument that it hardly merits discussion.

As a man, this is certainly the type of environment I would welcome for my wife or any other woman in the workplace. A company that would go beyond the letter and spirit of the law is likely one to recognize the importance of home and work life balance and appreciate it. What remains to be seen in Oklahoma are how many companies are willing to be recognized or earn their gold star.