A Roomful Of Lawyers Can’t Figure Out That Keeping A New Mom From Breastfeeding During The Bar Is Illegal
The Illinois Bar Examiners are making it difficult for a new mother to plan for both taking her exam and breastfeeding. Although Illinois law specifically states that it’s legal to breastfeed anywhere, her requests for reasonable accommodations to pump have been repeatedly denied.
Kristin Pagano passed the the bar exam in California, but she’s moved to Illinois and has to take it again. The earliest she can take the exam is February 2015. She’s pregnant, due January 2015, and plans on breastfeeding. She’s asked for a set of reasonable accommodations; a private room and extra time so she can pump. Her request was denied. Here’s part of the response letter they sent, courtesy of Above The Law:
You will be allowed access to the pump during the exam and while on break. Please note that the proctors, security, or site supervisors may wish to, and are allowed to, inspect your breast pump and supplies. Nursing, as I am sure you are aware, is not a physical disability and therefore not covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act…
The letter goes on to state they will make “reasonable accommodations,” which include allowing her to store her pump at a help center and providing her with a chair that she can bring into the restroom while she pumps. So they are making her pump in a bathroom and not giving her any extra time to take the exam. That is bullshit. Pagano estimates that dealing with those “accommodations” will probably result in 50 minutes being lobbed off her test time.
So basically, they are not willing to do anything to make it easier for breastfeeding mothers, even though breastfeeding is protected by law in the state of Illinois: “A mother may breastfeed in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.” Clearly, she is not trying to bring her baby into a bar exam. The act of breastfeeding includes being able to express milk when your baby is not around. That they wouldn’t give her a little extra time to do this is ridiculous. Also, breastfeeding mothers should not be forced to pump in bathrooms.
They are flippantly denying her the right to a livelihood — she needs to pass the bar before she can practice law again. This is not okay. Professional mothers should not be put into a position to have to choose one or the other — career, or breastfeeding.
Above The Law’s commentary is apropos:
For the record, Illinois is a state where women are allowed to breastfeed — and presumably breast pump — anytime, anywhere. The Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar’s behavior in this situation reminds us of a judge who once told a woman that “laws [concerning public breastfeeding] don’t apply in a courtroom,” and that only “[t]he judge’s law applies.” In the eyes of the Illinois bar, do their laws, not the applicable state and federal laws, apply to women who are taking a test in the hopes of someday being able to practice those laws?
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
(photo: Sergiu Ungureanu/ Shutterstock)