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Legislature passes bill requiring lactation spaces in courthouses

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Rep. Ashley Viola Gantt

Rep. Ashley Viola Gantt

The Florida Legislature approved a measure to require Florida courthouses to have dedicated lactation spaces, long a priority of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers.

The Senate voted 39-0 on March 15 to approve SB 144 by Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, and House followed suit March 31 by a vote of 112-0. Freshman Rep. Ashley Viola Gantt, D-Miami, shepherded the bill through the House. Both Gantt and Berman are members of The Florida Bar.

The measure requires all county courthouses in Florida to have a dedicated lactation space that is private, clean, and available for all courthouse patrons. The measure exempts courthouses that lack adequate space or would require new construction.

Sen. Lori Berman

Sen. Lori Berman

“It prioritizes the health and welfare of Florida’s working families,” Berman said when it cleared the Senate.

Gantt said the legislation will make it easier for women lawyers to return to their careers after childbirth.

For years, Gantt says, she’s heard stories from women lawyers about the “horrible experiences” they had when they were in trial and had to use public restrooms to pump and then were forced to dispose of the milk because of the unsanitary conditions, and all the while people “were coming in and out.”

Gantt said the lactation rooms will also serve the public. Too often, Gantt said, women with business at the courthouse leave “before their task was completed” because of the lack of facilities.

Rep. Hillary Cassel, D-Dania Beach, said as an attorney who returned to work when her son was 11 weeks old, “going to the courthouse as a female lawyer was scary knowing that I had a job to do, I had clients to represent, but I also had a baby at home that needed to be fed and taken care of.

“This gives us that opportunity to know that we can go to court, often spend long hours there, and have that safe comfortable space to make sure our children are cared for,” Cassel said.

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