Breastfeeding and Jury Duty1
Melissa R. Vance, JD, Legal Advisory Council
Jury duty is part of being a citizen in a democratic country. While inconvenient for many, especially breastfeeding mothers, it is a civic obligation. Twelve states have statutes specifically addressing breastfeeding and jury duty.
- Idaho, Kansas, Oregon and Nebraska provide that jury duty will be postponed until the mother is done nursing the child.
- Oklahoma law states that a mother breastfeeding a "baby" shall be excused upon request.
- Illinois and Virginia law provides that a mother nursing her "child" shall be excused up request.
- Iowa excuses breastfeeding mothers who are not employed outside the home.
- Nebraska requires a doctor's certification.
- Mississippi provides that a breastfeeding mother may be excused as a juror.
- Kentucky not only provides an exemption for breastfeeding mothers, but also those who are expressing breast milk.
- California law provides that the jury duty summons must include a reference to the court rules providing an exemption for breastfeeding mothers for up to year.
In many states, the request must be done in writing. Reference should always be made to the specific state statute.
Other states may provide exemptions through the court rules or regulations. Some states have excusal provisions for caretakers of young children. The La Leche League website only contains statutes expressly excusing jury duty. The Family Friendly Jury Duty website is a further resource for jury duty information: http://www.familyfriendlyjuryduty.org
What can a mother do if she is called to jury duty? First, see if an excuse applies. If so, follow the directions and request the exemption. If there is no exemption, the mother should immediately write a polite letter requesting an excuse. She should address it to the person in charge of jury service, or the head judge of the court. If possible, the mother should include a note from the child's doctor stating the child is exclusively breastfed. The letter should state that the mother is willing to do jury duty at a future time. Oftentimes, information about jury duty can be found out the applicable court's website.
Mothers should realize that in places where there is no exemption for breastfeeding or other excuse, such as care of family member, is available, a decision may depend on the age, situation and health of a child. For example, a woman working full time outside the home, who has a ten-month old child is unlikely to be excused, although she should make it clear as early as possible that she needs adequate time and a place to pump, which in turn, may lead to a postponement of service. A mother of a three-month old is more likely to be excused on the basis of breastfeeding than a mother of a three-year old. Breastfeeding should not be used to gain an excuse when the real concern is something else such as home-schooling or the running of a home-based business.
1 Adapted from "Breastfeeding Legislation in the United States: A General Overview and Implications for Helping Mothers " From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 3, June-July 2005, pp. 51-54.