Written By Mari Bandoma Callado
August is National Breastfeeding Month (and includes World Breastfeeding Week – August 1 to 7). This month is dedicated to promoting advocacy and protection of breastfeeding to ensure that all families have the support they need and the opportunity to breastfeed.
With all the obstacles that breastfeeding parents who return to work have to overcome, it’s not surprising that while the American Association of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding parents to exclusively nurse their infants for the first six months, with the continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by parent and infant, the California Department of Public Health reported that in 2016, 94% of mothers began breastfeeding but only 24.8% were exclusively breastfeeding at six months.
Lactation Accommodation in the Workplace
Under the California Labor Code, lactating employees in California are entitled to a reasonable amount of break time to express breastmilk – this includes time to pump, time to get and put away the pump, as well as time to travel to and from the employee’s workstation. If possible, the break must run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee.
Employers may, but do not have to, pay employees for lactation breaks that take longer than regular paid break time. So if an employee usually receives a 10-minute paid break, and it takes the employee 20 minutes to pump, the employer does not need to pay the employee for the last ten minutes. However, reasonable travel time to and from the lactation space is not considered break time and should be paid.
The Labor Code also requires employers to provide adequate space to express milk in private (not a bathroom) that is in close proximity to the employee’s work area and be used only for lactation purposes while an employee expresses milk. It must also include a surface to place a breast pump and personal items, a place to sit, access to electricity, a sink with running water, and a refrigerator or cooler for storing breast milk. The space must also be clean and free of hazardous materials.
If you have questions bout your lactation accommodations in the workplace, or if you have questions about your employment rights, contact our employment attorneys.