Can I Breast Feed at Work? Yes!

Generally, every employer, including the state and any political subdivision, must provide a nursing mother an appropriate space and a reasonable amount of break time to nurse the baby or express milk.  If possible, the break time can run concurrently with any paid break time already provided to the employee.  Any additional breaks, however, do not have to be paid. Labor Code § 1030.  The exception to the general rule is that an employer is not required to provide breaks to a lactating mother if to do so would seriously disrupt the employer’s operations. Lab. Code § 1032. Minor disruptions or inconveniences will not excuse an employer from accommodating a nursing mother.

In addition, the employer must make reasonable efforts to provide the employee with the use of a room or other location, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the employee’s work area, for the employee to express milk in private. The room or location may include the place where the employee normally works if it otherwise meets the requirements of this section. Lab. Code § 1031.

For example, you should be allowed to breast feed in your office if you feel comfortable doing so and can do so privately.

Notably, the right to breastfeed at work is not limited to mothers who express breast milk for their own children. For example, in Gonzales v. Marriott International, Inc., plaintiff Mary Gonzales entered into a gestational surrogacy agreement.  After she gave birth, she began to express milk several times a day for the child’s family.  Initially, her employer, Marriott, accommodated her need to express milk by allowing her to take additional breaks in a “lactation room” set up in a different office.  After her obligation to express breast milk for the child’s parents ended, she chose to continue to express breast milk for personal health benefits and so that she could donate breast milk to women who were unable to produce sufficient milk for their children. Marriott, however, refused to provide her with additional breaks upon learning that she was not feeding a child at home. Mary then brought an action for, among other things, violation of Labor Code § 1030.  As to this claim, the Court ruled in her favor holding that employees who are not nursing their own children are not excluded from seeking accommodation to express breast milk at work.

If your employer has denied, interfered, or harassed you because of your request for an accommodation to breast feed at work or any other pregnancy related issue, we urge you to contact an employment law attorney to learn more about your rights.

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