California provides lactating mothers the right to pump breast milk at work under the California Lactation Accommodation law. This law requires most employers to give women a reasonable break from work to pump breast milk and to provide a private location that is: shielded from view; not a bathroom stall; and near or at the employee’s work area. Employers also have to provide a place for women to store their pump and an insulated storage container.
EXCEPTION TO THE LACTATION BREAK REQUIREMENT
Employers, however, can escape the obligation to provide lactation breaks if they can show that to do so would seriously disrupt their business operations. It isn’t an easy showing and requires actual proof.
PAID VS. UNPAID LACTATION BREAK
Employers must pay for lactation breaks if the breaks are taken concurrently with lawfully entitled rest breaks, which is generally 10 minutes for every four hours worked. If employees need longer or more frequent breaks, their employers aren’t required to pay for the additional break time.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who pump breast milk, breastfeed, or suffer any related medical conditions. Unfortunately, employers often ignore women’s breastfeeding rights and discriminate against those who try to enforce their rights.
For instance, in 2012, a California teacher sued her former school and school district for wrongful termination and discrimination. According to the teacher’s allegations, she asked her manager for a 15-minute break each morning to pump breast milk. Her manager responded by telling her to train her breasts not to produce milk during school hours so she wouldn’t have to pump. The teacher complained about her manager’s response to human resources. Although the human resource director indicated that everything was a misunderstanding, nothing was done to accommodate the teacher’s request. A few months later, the school district asked the teacher to resign from work due to poor job performance. Of course, the school and school district deny everything. But this is just one example of how a failure to accommodate breastfeeding women and discrimination can arise in the workplace.
This is only a brief discussion on women’s right to pump breast milk at work under California law. If your rights have been violated, consult an attorney. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.