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Pumping Laws in the Workplace for Breastfeeding Women



Having a baby means facing hundreds of choices. Should you cloth diaper or disposable? Breastfeed or formula? When breastfeeding mothers return to work, they are faced with a new obstacle: pumping.


Pumping can be quite a chore. Many breast pumps require an electrical outlet; they are loud and not always discreet. On top of this, mothers need time and privacy to empty their breasts fully. In the workplace, finding the space and time is protected by law, but not all employers are accommodating. All breastfeeding mothers should know their legal rights when it comes to pumping in the workplace.


Space to pump: Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation for employees who are breastfeeding or pumping. A toilet stall is not a reasonable space. A reasonable accommodation is creating an environment that allows the employee to continue to perform the essential functions of the job. This can be a small room with the ability to close and lock the door and block any windows.


Time to pump: A lactation break is a time allotted during the workday needed to pump or express milk. California law requires employers to provide lactation breaks.


  • The length of the break must be a reasonable amount of time. The U.S. Department of Labor has suggested this is between 15-20 minutes.

  • Lactation breaks can be structured around meal or break times, but if the employee needs more frequent breaks, the employer should accommodate. This is as long as it doesn’t seriously disrupt the operations of the employer.

  • How long does it take a breastfeeding employee to set up? To wash the supplies and hands after? To properly store the milk?


Keeping these things in mind is essential when establishing a break schedule. It is also important to note that an employer is not required to pay an hourly employee during the lactation breaks if they fall outside of any established paid breaks.


Pumping Laws in the Workplace


California has several laws designed to protect mothers returning to work. Along with time and space, a mother cannot be discriminated against for breastfeeding or lactation choices. If an employer is doing so, they are discriminating according to sex.

There are ways to protect yourself when returning to the workforce as a pumping mother. Getting a note from your doctor ad sending a copy with a written request for breaks and a private space helps create proof that you’ve asked. Document any time that you haven’t been allowed time or space to pump. Make a note of any comments are made about your pumping at work. This evidence is crucial if you decide to pursue a case against your employer.


If you feel you’ve been discriminated against for pumping in the workplace, contact the Law Offices of Tanya Gomerman. Call 415-545-8608 today to schedule a FREE consultation.

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