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California Lactation Breaks and Remote Work

By Walton Law APCNovember 14, 2020March 4th, 2023No Comments

Long before the pandemic hit, nursing mothers had to balance taking care of their child’s nutritional needs while maintaining their work schedule. The rise of remote work has helped in this goal.

Your Rights at the Workplace Apply Remotely

The recent shift to working from home has made it easier to have a place to breast feed and pump, but that doesn’t mean that anything has changed when it comes to your rights regarding lactation breaks. Whether you’re working from home or working onsite, you’re entitled to break times. Generally, all of the rights that you have as an employee in the office are retained when you’re working remotely.

Federal Break Time Law

The federal Breaktime for Nursing Mothers Law requires employers with 50 or more employees to allow lactation breaks for eligible staff. The law provides the following:

  • A “reasonable” break time to express milk;
  • A place to pump that is “shielded from view”, “free from intrusion”, and isn’t a bathroom; and
  • The time period is for up to one year after the child’s birth.

The law does not require employers to do the following:

  • Pay you for the lactation breaks;
  • Provide breaks if it would cause undue hardship; and
  • Provide breaks for exempt employees.

Eligibility for Break Time Law

The federal law only applies to hourly, nonexempt employees. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck if you’re a California worker who doesn’t fit that criteria. Fortunately, exempt employees are covered by the California law which provides more protection than the federal one.

California Lactation Breaks Law

California’s version mandates that all employers must provide lactation breaks and other accommodations to nursing employees. This law applies to all California employers regardless of the size and provides break time beyond one year after the child’s birth.

Reasonable Accommodations

One relevant issue to a nursing mom who works remotely is the right to a reasonable accommodation. California employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees with a condition related to their pregnancy or childbirth. The “reasonable accommodation” is defined as an adjustment to the employee’s work environment that can help them perform the essential duties of the job. Because lactation is considered to be a condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, an employer is required to accommodate the lactation needs of the employee.

For example, you’re a nursing mother working from home due to the pandemic who wants to continue doing so, but the office has reopened. You could possibly get a special accommodation to be allowed to work remotely. To do this, you would have to base this request on the advice of your health care provider. Then you should make the request in writing and retain your own copy. Additionally, the employer isn’t allowed to retaliate against you, even if it isn’t granted.

Is Your Employer Denying You Lactation Breaks? Speak to an Employment Lawyer

Working remotely has helped many working moms that are nursing. However, it doesn’t mean employers are off the hook regarding important lactation break laws. If you want help with an accommodation, pregnancy discrimination, or other employment issues, you need the legal experts at Walton Law who can fight passionately for your rights. Contact us today to get started.

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