Does your boss need to accommodate your breast milk pumping?

For new mothers, returning to work presents unique hardships. In addition to the emotional turmoil that comes from leaving your new family member in someone else’s care, you have to plan for their needs while you are at work.

If you are trying to provide your baby with breast milk, that may include regular pumping sessions during the day. Pumping breast milk allows you to save and store milk to nourish your infant without bringing him or her into your workplace every two to three hours. If your employer is refusing to accommodate your pumping, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

Pumping is protected under California law

In 2002, California enacted a law called the California Lactation Accommodation Law. This law provides for lactating mothers to receive breaks from work to accommodate their pumping needs. It is also applied to women who are breastfeeding. Expressing milk is a medical need, both for you, the new mother, and your infant. As such, your employer must permit sufficient time and space for you to safely and privately express breast milk or nurse your infant every two to three hours throughout your work day. If the times do not overlap with your paid breaks, the time may be unpaid.

What is your employer required to do?

Since pumping can take twenty to forty minutes two or three times during a single work day, an employer is not required to pay for that time unless you are reading work materials while pumping. They are, however, required to allow you time as needed for pumping and to provide you with a private space in an enclosed room to pump.

The break time should be long enough to allow you to fully express collected breast milk from each breast, as well as time to clean up your equipment following your pumping session. Failing to provide space or time means your employer is likely breaking the law.

An attorney can help if your employer is discriminating against you for lactating

If your employer is refusing to accommodate you, they are violating California law. In some cases, an employer may refuse to provide you with adequate breaks or a private space for pumping. In others, they may terminate your employment, demote you, offer worse shifts, or otherwise penalize you for asking for legal accommodations. If you believe your employer is discriminating against you because of your need for breast milk pumping breaks, you need to speak with an experienced workplace discrimination attorney. He or she can help you determine the next step that you should take.

When you speak with an experienced workplace discrimination attorney, this legal advocate can review the details of your experience with your employer and determine if any laws were violated. He or she can advocate on your behalf to your employer or even file a civil suit if necessary.

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