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Breastfeeding mothers have specific employment rights

A woman who decides to breastfeed her baby shouldn’t have to face discrimination because of her choice. Lactation is a naturally occurring event that a woman can’t stop just because she’s at work. Because she needs to provide nutritional breastmilk for her baby, she must be allowed to express that milk while she’s at work. California laws set strict standards for employers who have lactating employees who are feeding babies up to one year of age. 

  • The employee is allowed to take reasonable breaks to express milk. There isn’t any guidance about how often this should occur, but it’s expected that she’ll be able to do it when she needs to and for a reasonable amount of time. She can try to do this during regular breaks, but might not be able to make that schedule work. The time that she takes to express milk is unpaid unless it occurs when she is on a regularly paid break.
  • A private, clean location must be provided to her for expressing breastmilk. This must not be in a bathroom, and it must be reasonably close to her work area. It should be free from intrusion while she’s pumping.
  • The space provided must not contain hazardous materials. It must have a place to sit and a surface to put personal items and a breast pump. It must have access to electricity or another means to operate an electric or battery-powered pump.
  • On top of those requirements, the employer also must have a sink with running water and refrigerator or another cooling device to store the milk. These must also be within reasonable proximity to the employee’s work area.

Some employees, such as those who have fewer than 50 employees, might be exempt from some of these requirements if it would pose an undue hardship on them. It is up to them to prove that it would cause that. 

If you’re a lactating mother and think that your rights at work are being violated, you might opt to take legal action. Working with an attorney who’s familiar with these issues is beneficial.