California has the most comprehensive and stringent pregnancy discrimination laws in the country. The provisions in state laws are much wider in scope compared to federal laws and are designed to protect pregnant women from any kind of discrimination or harassment at the workplace.
The important thing you need to know is that pregnancy discrimination laws in California also apply to nursing mothers – who return to work after childbirth, but still require certain accommodations from their employer for lactation purposes.
The Right to Take Lactation Breaks
California pregnancy discrimination laws, as well as federal laws, allow nursing mothers to take lactation breaks at work for the purpose of expressing breast milk.
A typical lactation break can last anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. There are, however, no strict regulations with respect to the length of a lactation break that an employee can take. The length of the break depends on a number of factors including:
- The time it takes for you to walk from your work area to the place allocated by your employer for taking your lactation breaks.
- The time it takes for you to express breast milk.
- The time it takes for you to wash your hands after expressing breast milk and store it in the refrigerator.
- The time it takes for you to walk back to your work area.
When Can You Take Your Lactation Breaks?
If you are allowed to take rest breaks and meal breaks at work, it is a good idea for you to try and take your lactation breaks at the same time. If you cannot, however, do so for any reason, you can request your employer for additional breaks, which you are legally entitled to.
You should, however, remember that if you take additional lactation breaks apart from rest and meal breaks, your employer need not pay you for your lactation breaks.
Where Can You Take Lactation Breaks?
Your employer is required to provide you with a private space for the purpose of expressing breast milk. The place should not be too far away from your workstation and it should be reasonably shielded to prevent people from accidentally walking in on you while you are expressing breast milk.
If your work area itself is reasonable private and comfortable enough for you, you can request your employer to take your lactation breaks right there. If not, you can ask your employer to provide you with some other space.
Your employer cannot force you to take your lactation breaks at a toilet stall under any circumstances.
Can Your Employer Deny Your Request for Lactation Breaks?
Both federal laws and state laws unequivocally state that nursing mothers have the right to take lactation breaks at work. So, your employer cannot deny your request to take breaks at work for expressing breast milk.
There is only one exception – your employer can deny your request in rare cases where allowing you to take lactation breaks could disrupt the operations seriously.
This is, however and moreover, very hard to prove in a court of law and most employers are extremely wary of denying lactation break requests based on this provision.
Makarem & Associates at Your Service
If you are a nursing mother who is being or has been discriminated against by your employer, if you have been denied your legal rights with respect to lactation breaks, and if you are treated unfairly due to the fact that you are a nursing mother, the pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Makarem & Associates can help you.
If you are a target of discriminatory practices at your workplace due to your pregnancy or your condition as a nursing mother, talk to our attorneys to find out what your legal options are. You can call us at 310-312-0299 or email us at [email protected].