Often times returning to work can be a nightmare for a new parent, especially when adjusting to your new family member is a challenge in itself. In addition to potentially coming back to a major workload, other thoughts may come to mind such as figuring how you will express your milk while you are at work.
As recent as January 1st, 2020, lactation accommodation laws are changing in California and more parents are facing less challenges and harassment while returning back to work after giving birth. If you feel your employer is not complying with state and federal laws and refusing to give you appropriate lactation accommodation, reach out to our office for a free consultation to review the details of your case.
Lactation Accommodation Requirements
- Be private and shielded from others’ view;
- Not be a bathroom stall;
- Be clean and safe;
- Contain an electrical outlet;
- Be located near running water and not to far from the employee’s working area;
- Be able to lock from the inside so others’ cannot intrude;
- Have a place to sit; and
- Have a surface to place a bag, a pump or other personal items.
Senate Bill 142 also mandates that employers provide a written lactation accommodation policy within its hiring documents and/or employment manual. It is important to note this law applies to all employers in both the public and private sectors, regardless of the number of employees the employer has.
Similar to its state counterpart, the above requirements for a lactation space are also required to be met by employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act, (FLSA). However, the FLSA generally only applies to employers with more than 50 employees, unlike California’s application to any employer. Under the FLSA, employers with 50 or less employees may be able to escape the mandatory lactation accommodation so long as the employer can prove it will suffer an undue hardship for having to provide such accommodation. A minor inconvenience will not suffice the undue hardship burden; it must be a significant burden to the employer’s finances, overall operations, etc.
California Labor Code Section 1030 states employers must permit its nursing employees to have breaks in order to express milk. While a general lunch or rest break can be used or extended to meet this requirement, the new parent may also request additional breaks to express their milk should they need it. However, employers are not required to compensate the nursing employee for these additional breaks.
In addition, FLSA only mandates that employers provide for lactation breaks for up to one year after the child is born. Conversely, California laws do not place a time limit for how long a nursing employee may express breast milk. Essentially, so long as the parent continues nursing, the employee may take all the breaks they need to express milk.
While both California law and federal law permit parents who are breast feeding to take lactation breaks during the workday, neither law requires employers to provide working parents with the right to breast feed their child while at work. However, if there is a child care facility on-site at the nursing employee’s work location, the parent is more than welcome to breast feed their child during their breaks should they choose to.
When to Call a Lawyer
Failure to comply with the above California and federal lactation accommodation requirements, could result in many violations, subjecting the employer to hundreds of dollars in penalties. Luckily, there are options that a nursing mother could choose from in order to enforce these rights, which include reporting the employer’s violations to the California’s Labor Commissioner Office or filing a charge with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.