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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Follow-up: Call for Accommodations for Breastfeeding Mothers is Answered

In the past, if you were a lactating woman, you could not expect to receive any special treatment from the RI Bar. According to the results of a survey (www.aclu.org/map/breastfeeding-policies-during-bar-exam-state) conducted by the ACLU and Law Students for Reproductive Justice, Rhode Island has rated a D- for it efforts in accommodating women who are breastfeeding during the time that the bar exam is offered.

The ACLU notes that the “report card findings highlight the widespread barriers that women face in pursuit of their legal careers. State boards must acknowledge that their outdated policies contribute to this problem and must take an active role in eliminating these barriers. Women should not be forced to make a decision between their families and their careers.”
In November  David Wollin, Chair of the Rhode Island Board of Bar Examiners received a letter sent by some pretty powerful names—LWVRI, ACLU of Rhode Island, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, Rhode Island NOW, and Rhode Island Women’s Bar Association. The letter noted that every other New England state does make appropriate accommodations, and that this coalition believed, “...there is no reason for this to be delayed any longer. We therefore request the Board to take up this matter expeditiously and adopt a policy designed to meaningfully accommodate breastfeeding applicants in time for the next Bar exam.”
Two months after the letter was sent, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has now adopted amendments to the Board’s Rules of Practice that will allow breastfeeding applicants to request and obtain accommodations easily. The new regulations note:
"An applicant who is otherwise eligible to take the bar examination, but who does not qualify for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended, may request administrative nonstandard test accommodations when applying for admission.
"Examples of nonstandard test accommodations are: ...whatever accommodations may be necessary to pump breast milk during the bar examination.....”

Happily in February 2016, mothers can be assured that being a mother won’t interfere with their need to take the Rhode Island Bar.

Thanks to the RI Judiciary for changing this arcane policy and to all the members of the coalition for taking up the cause!

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