Another state has enacted a law to accommodate breastfeeding mothers called to jury duty. Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed new legislation providing jury duty exemptions for breastfeeding mothers into New York law. New York joins seventeen other states and Puerto Rico who have enacted similar legislation to provide breastfeeding mothers necessary accommodations if called to jury duty. While New Jersey has amended the state’s anti-discrimination law in recent years to include pregnancy as a protected class and to require employers to provide breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace, there is currently is no specific law in place that exempts breastfeeding mother from jury duty. Whether New Jersey will soon follow New York’s lead remains to be seen.
Under the recent New York law, breastfeeding mothers may file an exemption from serving jury duty for two years, requiring only a doctor’s note affirming that they are currently breastfeeding at the time the exemption is filed. During the signing, Governor Cuomo noted, “While jury service is a critically important civic duty, we also know new moms oftentimes juggle countless responsibilities and navigate enormous adjustments in the early stages of their child’s life,” and that “This commonsense measure takes that reality into account by providing new moms the flexibility and option to postpone jury service while they care for a newborn.”
New York has followed the national trend in enacting similar laws to deal with the issue facing many new mothers in attempting to fulfill their civic duty while also needing to care for their newborn. In March 2017, a breastfeeding woman in Minnesota took to Facebook to share her horrific experience when having to serve on a jury while breastfeeding. As she stated in her Facebook post, Amanda Chandler was granted only two breaks to breastfeed by the clerk and judge and needed to do so in a bathroom. Ms. Chandler stated, “[s]eems pretty ironic that the very place which is supposed to uphold and enforce the laws would not follow or adhere to them.”