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Must California employers pay workers for lactation breaks?

On Behalf of | Feb 20, 2024 | Wage & Hour Law

There are several laws protecting the right of California employees to take breaks. Paid breaks, including meal times, are beneficial for workers and are sometimes mandatory under California state law. Certain employees may require more breaks than others. A woman who has recently had a child, for example, might request lactation breaks. Those with on-site child care may want to nurse a newborn or infant, while those with off-site child care support may pump milk to maintain their supply and then store it to later provide nutrition for their child.

Does an employer have to pay a worker for the breaks they take to pump milk and maintain their lactation?

Workers can use paid breaks for pumping

California Labor Law 1030 requires basic accommodations from employers with lactating women on staff. Generally speaking, employees should have access to a private space other than a bathroom in which to nurse or express milk. They should also have access to a sink and to refrigeration equipment to store milk.

Employers should allow lactating women to take the breaks whenever reasonable and necessary to pump milk and maintain their supply. However, employers do not necessarily have to pay for those breaks. When employers provide paid breaks, workers can use those breaks for the purposes of pumping breast milk.

Simply declining to pay a worker for the time spent pumping or nursing is not necessarily a violation of lactation laws in California. However, punishing a worker for using those breaks or refusing to provide lactating women with accommodations could run afoul of both California labor laws and federal protections for new mothers. For example, the denial of reasonable break time or adequate space to express milk could entitle women to additional wages and substantial civil penalties. The Labor Commissioner could impose civil penalties against an employer in the amount of one hundred dollars ($100) for each day that an employee is denied reasonable break time or adequate space to express milk.

Recognizing when an employer may have violated a woman’s rights can help people fight back against mistreatment and discrimination in the workplace.