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What Does California Law Say About Breast Pumping at Work?

Posted on January 9, 2019 | Firm News

Breastfeeding is a necessary action mothers perform in order to keep their babies happy, healthy, and fed. Unfortunately, many people still view breastfeeding as vulgar, inappropriate, and shameful. As a result, employers, schools, and social stigma have forced mothers to breastfeed in poor conditions, exposing babies to germs from bathrooms and other private areas.

California has passed several laws that protect the rights of mothers who breastfeed, including breast pumping at work to provide milk for the child and relieve pressure.

Foundational Federal and State Protections

According to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must provide reasonable break time and a safe place for a non-exempt employee to pump her breasts. Employers must provide this right for up to one year. However, the federal statute does not protect all employees, such as those who earn over a certain amount or receive salary pay.

To combat this inequality, the California Labor Code requires employers to extend breastfeeding rights to all employees, regardless of status. As long as you are nursing your child, a California employer cannot deny you a safe place and break time to pump.

Employment Lactation Accommodation Regulations

Effective on January 1st, 2019, the California State Assembly passed Assembly Bill 1976 to amend the California Labor Code. This bill states that an employer must provide appropriate accommodations to breastfeeding employees.

  • The employer must provide an employee with a space to breastfeed that is not a bathroom and in close proximity to the employee’s location.
  • The breastfeeding space must be private.
  • If the employer cannot provide a permanent location due to financial, operational, or space limitations, they can create a temporary space.
  • The temporary breastfeeding space must be private and free from intrusions.
  • Employees can only use the temporary space for breastfeeding purposes.
  • The temporary space must meet state requirements about lactation accommodation.

If the employer is not near a physical location, such as those in the agricultural industry, the breastfeeding space must be private, enclosed, and shaded. For example, the employer can designate the air-conditioned cab of a truck or a tractor as a breastfeeding space.

If the employer cannot provide this space to their employees at all, they will need to prove to the California Department of Labor that they cannot do so because of the size, structure, or nature of the business. In these cases, the employer has to find another location, other than a bathroom, close to the work area to breastfeed.

How to Report Issues With Workplace Accommodations

Employer non-compliance with these breastfeeding regulations is illegal under California law. In fact, it is considered a form of discrimination under Assembly Bill 2386. This bill amends sex discrimination to include:

  • Pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical conditions
  • Childbirth or childbirth-related conditions
  • Breastfeeding or breastfeeding-related conditions

Your employer cannot deny you accommodations, dismiss you from your position, punish you, or engage in any discriminatory actions because you are a nursing mother. Despite these laws, many employers still do not understand or know that these protections are mandatory. If your employer discriminates against you, you can file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner’s Bureau of Field Enforcement (BOFE) at the nearest location.

To file a BOFE complaint, follow these steps:

  • Make sure to file your complaint soon after the incident. The statute of limitations for breaking a labor law is three years from the date of the discriminatory incident.
  • Visit the BOFE website and download the Report of Labor Law Violation Form. The form comes in English and Spanish. BOFE recommends using your computer to fill in these forms.
  • Print and sign the form, gather supporting documents, and mail your forms to the nearest BOFE location.

The rights of breastfeeding mothers are of the utmost importance. If you are experiencing pregnancy discrimination, it is important that you file a BOFE complaint or visit a labor rights lawyer to discuss your legal options.