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Employee rights for breastfeeding mothers

Over the last several decades, more and more women have entered the workforce. For new mothers, leaving their child to return to work can be emotionally tough. During a time when they are trying to readjust to their role as employee and mother, they may require special accommodations. Specifically, women who are breastfeeding their children may need to utilize some of their time at work to express breast milk.

Fortunately, California employment law protects this right. Under the law, all employers are to provide nursing mothers with a reasonable amount of time to express breast milk. Additionally, these employers must provide these mothers with a space where the expressing can occur. A toilet stall is not acceptable. Of course, the law states that the time used for expressing breast milk should, if possible, occur during normal break times, and employers are not required to furnish compensation for the additional time. Additionally, an employer is not required to offer this time if doing so would seriously hinder the employer's operations.

Unfortunately, though, many employers fail to provide these rights to their employee. When this happens, an employee can file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner's Bureau of Field Enforcement. If found to be in violation of the law, an employer may be forced to pay the employee for an extra hour of work for each day that the appropriate break was not given. Also, those who face retaliation for reporting these violations may be able to file a legal claim against their employer.

Ensuring that employee rights are protected in the workplace can be a scary endeavor. After all, many workers are concerned about losing a promotion, facing reduced hours or pay, or being fired for speaking up about their rights. This is exactly why employment law exists, though. So, those who feel like they have been treated unfairly by their employer can choose to discuss their case with a legal professional, as legal recourse may be appropriate.

Source: State of California Department of Industrial Relations, "Lactation Accommodation," accessed on April 9, 2017