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Breastfeeding and Jury Duty Can Be a Dirty Combination in Florida

Breastfeeding is not an explicit reason for sidestepping jury duty in Florida. Although a mother who does not work full time and who cares for a young child has a legally valid excuse, a full-time working mother who breastfeeds is bound to jury duty, unless a judge agrees otherwise.

"If you're a breastfed baby in Broward County and your mom is called for jury duty, she will be told to prepare your meal in a disgusting public bathroom," says Tracy Volaric, a nursing mother.

For her, pumping twice a day at work is never a problem, but the Broward County Courthouse proved another story. Volaric was told there was an outlet in the restroom where she could plug in her pump. She walked into the "typical dirty dirty public restroom" and found the only outlet next to the overflowing trash can by the door.

Volaric told courthouse employees she would not pump in the restroom and says several of them shrugged off her request for a more appropriate location. She was offered a cleaner and more private office space only after she asked for the names of the people she considered rude and unhelpful.

Last year, a bill was introduced  that would excuse mothers nursing children under 2 years old from jury duty, but the bill never became a law. At least 12 states explicitly excuse breastfeeding mothers from jury duty, but Florida does so only if someone can show "hardship, extreme inconvenience, or public necessity," the catch-all excuse that can, conceivably, include breastfeeding. Volaric didn't try to apply these conditions to her situation because she didn't think it would be such an unpleasant issue.

Florida is one of 44 states that have laws allowing women to breastfeed in any private or public location. But this doesn't mean women are comfortable pumping in the corner of a courthouse bathroom -- or, for that matter, in a courthouse hallway, jury room, or parking lot.

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Leslie Minora

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