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Lactation and the Law: Must My Employer Provide Lactation Breaks?

Navigating the workplace as a new mom is hard enough; if you’re a breastfeeding mom, things get more complex. Having to pump your breastmilk while working can complicate your everyday schedule, and some bosses aren’t exactly breastfeeding-friendly. However, California moms are afforded lactation breaks, thanks to the 2010 Affordable Care Act. This law states that employers who are subject to the Fari Labors Standards Act must provide nursing mothers with reasonable unpaid breaks for the purpose of expressing their breastmilk for up to a year following the baby’s birth. If your workplace fails to do so, you may have grounds for a discrimination case, and you should contact Rager & Yoon – Employment Lawyers and our discrimination attorney at Riverside right away.

In addition to allowing moms time to pump, this federal law also requires that employers provide a private place that is not a bathroom for the purpose of expressing their breastmilk. The place provided must be protected from intrusion or view by fellow coworkers or others. Notably, an exception exists for employers with fewer than 50 employees if the employer can prove that providing lactation breaks would cause an “undue hardship” for the business—that it would be too hard to too expensive based on the size of the employer, the structure of the business and the business’ resources.

On the state level, nursing moms must be given lactation breaks regardless of the size of the business. There is no set number of months that breaks must be given; as long as the employee continues to nurse, she should continue to be afforded the opportunity to express her milk regularly throughout the day. In addition, California law requires that employers make reasonable efforts to give the nursing mother a private space for breastmilk to be expressed; the designated space should not be a bathroom stall, and it should be located close to the area where the employee works. There is an exception to this, however; if providing breaks or a private space would cause serious disruption to the business’ operations, then the employer is exempt from the law. A substantial burden must be shown for the employer to be exempt.

Employers that violate California’s code for lactation breaks or providing a private space for nursing moms to express their milk may be penalized under the law. The current penalty if $100 per violation, levied by the California Labor Commissioner.

Nursing moms must notify their employers of their intention to express their milk at work in order to give the employer time to accommodate their needs. A request in writing is generally the best option. Employers cannot legally retaliate against employees who ask to be accommodated for lactation.

Keep in mind that discrimination claims must be levied against employers within one year of the date of the discriminatory action. Contact Rager & Yoon – Employment Lawyers and our Riverside discrimination attorney as soon as possible to determine the validity of your claim and take the first steps toward holding your employer responsible.


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