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California laws ban breast-feeding discrimination in the workplace

Many women in San Diego choose to continue working outside of the home after having children. Managing home and work life with children certainly comes with challenges, but pregnancy and breast-feeding should never be reasons for firing female employees or discriminating against women in the workplace.

Although many employers have focused on better accommodating working mothers' schedules and breast-feeding needs in the workplace, not all employers or employees understand all of the anti-discrimination laws pregnant and breast-feeding mothers are protected under in California.

Pregnant and nursing mothers need to be aware of their rights in the workplace so that they do not feel forced to make any unnecessary sacrifices when it comes to raising children. Employees should understand that when these laws are violated, employers can and should be held accountable for breaking the law.

When compared to other states, California laws do a better job of protecting employees who need to care for family members and children. For example, California laws clearly state that it is illegal for employers to discriminate or fire employees who choose to nurse their children and need to take reasonable breaks during the work day to pump breast milk. Federal laws just recently added better protections for nursing mothers in the workplace.

Some U.S. employers have argued in the past that although pregnancy discrimination is illegal, firing women who request to take breaks during the day to pump breast milk is not illegal since nursing mothers are no longer pregnant.

A Texas woman was fired in 2009 after she had asked her boss if she could use a private room at work to pump when she returned to her job after giving birth to her baby. Earlier this year, a judge ruled that the woman's employer had not violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act since the woman was not pregnant. The woman is still pursuing her sex discrimination lawsuit against her former employee. Local medical associations have backed her claims arguing that breast-feeding is a medical condition resulting from pregnancy, which means the woman's employer violated anti-discrimination laws when firing her.

Since the woman was fired, federal laws have been amended. Employers are now required to make reasonable accommodations for breast-feeding mothers in the workplace. However, federal laws have yet to explicitly ban lactation discrimination.

Source: Workforce.com, "'Great Texas Lactation Case' Debates Whether Breast-Milk Pumping Is a Pregnancy Related Condition," Matthew Heller, Aug. 23, 2012

  • Pregnancy discrimination is illegal in California workplaces. To learn more about employees' rights in the workplace, please visit our San Diego employment discrimination law page.