Going back to work after having a baby can bring new challenges for working moms. Many of these individuals have to navigate breastfeeding in their places of employment or during the course of their work. The good news is that there are laws in California that require employers to provide breastfeeding mothers with lactation breaks, in accordance with California breastfeeding laws and pumping at work laws.
Law Requiring Lactation Break Accommodations
The main law protecting breastfeeding mothers in the workplace is Labor Code 1030, which states that “every employer, including the state and any political subdivision, shall provide a reasonable amount of break time to accommodate an employee desiring to express breast milk for the employee’s infant child each time the employee has need to express milk.” This law ensures compliance with California pumping laws and establishes the requirement for lactation break accommodations.
Thus, a lactation break is a period of time during a workday when breastfeeding mothers can express milk for their infants at their workplace. These periods are also called “pumping breaks” or “pumping at work.” These breaks are protected by California pumping laws and should be provided by employers. Lactation breaks are paid if the employee takes this break at the same time as another paid break, such as a rest or meal break.
Employers have to provide lactation breaks of reasonable time unless one of the following situations occurs, as outlined by lactation room requirements California:
An employer does not have to provide a lactation break of reasonable time to a breastfeeding employee if it would impose a serious disruption or undue hardship on the employer’s operations. The law does not define “undue hardship,” but generally, it means that the employer faces some difficulty complying with the law or does not have financial resources to do so.
The second exception to this statute is in regards to non-infant children. Employers technically only have to provide lactation breaks to breastfeeding employees who are feeding their own infant children. While it does not specify the age of an infant in the law itself, it can range anywhere from children up to 1 year old to 3 and a half years old.
What To Do If Your Employer Does Not Provide Lactation Breaks
Employers who fail to provide their employees with lactation breaks of reasonable time are in violation of the law, including the lactation room requirements. A $100 fine may be imposed for each time that an adequate lactation break was denied. Additionally, a breastfeeding employee may be able file a civil lawsuit against an employer if she was discriminated against for breastfeeding.
Because California law protects discrimination based on “sex,” it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee for breastfeeding or for having medical conditions related to breastfeeding, as outlined by California pumping laws and lactation room requirements. It is also unlawful to harass breastfeeding women in the workplace. An employee can bring a lawsuit against her employer for sex discrimination and may recover compensation.
Nursing mothers have important legal rights in California. If you believe your rights have been violated, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the employment law attorneys at Shegerian & Associates for a free case evaluation. They are experienced in handling cases related to lactation room requirements, California pumping laws, and breastfeeding discrimination. Contact them today to protect your rights and seek justice. We look forward to hearing from you and working hard on your behalf.
The Pump for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act) or Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 became a law on December 29, 2022. This law extends to more nursing employees the right to receive break time to pump and a private place to pump at work and requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a private place other than a bathroom for employees to pump breast milk for their nursing child for one year after the child’s birth.
Nearly all employees covered by the FLSA are eligible to pump at work, and are entitled to the PUMP Act. Employees are eligible to pump at work for one year after their child’s birth. Narrow exceptions may apply to certain employees of small companies and certain transportation employees.
Under the FLSA, when an employee is using break time at work to express breast milk, they either:
- As with other breaks under the FLSA, the nursing employee must be completely relieved from duty, or the time spent pumping must be counted as hours worked for the purposes of minimum wage and overtime requirements.
- If an employer already provides paid break time and if an employee chooses to use that time to pump, they must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time.
- An employer must also pay for pump breaks if required by Federal or State law or municipal ordinance.
Further, when employers provide paid breaks, an employee who uses such break time to pump breast milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time. However, if the employee chooses to take time during a non-paid break to pump at work then the employer is not legally required to pay the employee.
- It is a violation of the FLSA for any person to “discharge or in any other manner discriminate against” any employee because, for instance, they filed a complaint to assert their pump-at-work rights or cooperated in an investigation regarding these protections.
- Employees are protected regardless of whether the complaint is made orally or in writing.
- Most courts have ruled that internal complaints to an employer are also protected under the FLSA's prohibition on retaliation.
If your employer has retaliated against your rights to pump at work then it is recommended you contact an employment attorney. If a woman is successful in bringing a civil suit for discrimination or harassment, she may recover: compensatory damages or perhaps even punitive damages.
According to the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor, these are what employees can do if they believe that their employer violated their rights to reasonable break time and a private space to pump:
- Employers are liable for appropriate legal or equitable remedies under the FLSA.
- Effective April 28, 2023, remedies for violations of the reasonable break time and space requirements may include employment, reinstatement, promotion, and the payment of wages lost and an equal amount as liquidated damages, compensatory damages, and make-whole relief, such as economic losses that resulted from violations, and punitive damages where appropriate.
- These legal and equitable remedies are already available for violations of the anti-retaliation prohibition.
Additionally, an employee may file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division or a private cause of action seeking appropriate remedies. Special procedures may apply to filing a private action where an employer has failed to provide an employee with an appropriate space to pump. Special procedures do not apply before an employee or other party can file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division or when an employee brings a private suit to enforce the reasonable break time requirement. You may also file a complaint with DLSE if you believe that you have been denied or retaliated against reasonable break time and space to pump breast milk.