As a mother who recently had a child, you are going through one of the most difficult and joyous times in your life. You want to provide for your child in every way possible, but you also have to return to work and figure out how to continue breastfeeding your child. The State of California has numerous laws that protect the rights of the mother to breastfeed her child in public and for employers to provide certain accommodations to assist in breastfeeding in the workplace.
Breastfeeding in Public
Since 1997, the California legislature has codified a law, Civil Code 43.3, that allows a mother to breastfeed in any public or private place, where she and the child are authorized to be. This means that a mother may breastfeed her child in any store, restaurant, mall, concert hall, amusement park, park, movie theater, sporting venue, or other similar location, without interference or being asked to leave, move to a bathroom or dressing room, or otherwise cover up. Although not required to provide a designated location for breastfeeding, many venues now provide a family room that nursing mothers may (but do not have to) use.
Since 2014, pursuant to Government Code Section 50479 public airports of a certain size are required to provide a designated room or other location at each airport terminal behind the airport security screening area for members of the public to express breast milk in private. The room may not be a bathroom and must include a minimum of one chair and an electrical outlet.
Pumping at Your Employment
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Government Code Section 12926, was also amended in 2012 to include breastfeeding and conditions related thereto within its purview. This means that an employer may not discriminate against an employee who is breastfeeding or pumping milk. Since 2002, California employers are required to provide accommodations for breastfeeding mothers. California’s Labor Code 1030 and 1031 requires all California employers to provide an ample amount of break time and make a reasonable effort to provide a private space, other than a toilet or restroom stall, close to the employee’s work area, to accommodate an employee needing or desiring to express breast milk for her baby. However, Labor Code 1032’s exception states that an employer is not required to provide break time if to do so would seriously disrupt the operations of the employer.
Increase of Discrimination Against Mothers and Mothers-To-Be
Over the past decade, the number of Family Responsibility Discrimination (“FRD”) cases – which include not only those related to breastfeeding and pumping accommodation but also to staying home with a sick child or failure to provide breaks to a pregnant employee as required by her doctor – has been on the rise nationwide. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently over 50 million employees in the workforce who have children under the age of 18. WorkLife Law, a nonprofit research and advocacy group at the University of California, Hastings College of Law, provided a 2016 report entitled Caregivers in the Workplace – Family Responsibilities Discrimination Litigation Update 2016 that analyzed employment discrimination cases related to an employee’s caregiving obligations, also known as family responsibilities discrimination (“FRD”) cases. The FRD cases include but not limited to, employees discriminated based upon pregnancy or parenthood. According to the report, the number of FRD cases decided in the last decade (2006-2015, 3223 cases) is more than three times the number of cases decided in the prior decade (1996-2005, 873 cases), representing a 269% increase. The vast majority of these cases are related to pregnancy and maternity leave. The likely reason for the trend may be that more women are in the work force and tend to work later into pregnancy. With more American households with all adults in the paid workforce, the increase number of men who are becoming caregivers, and increase employees’ expectations that working and providing family care should not be mutually exclusive, the number of FRD cases is expected to rise at a greater rate than other types of employment cases.
As a mother breastfeeding in California, if you feel that your rights are being violated or you want to make sure that your business is in compliance with both state and federal laws, please contact Schwartz Law, P.C. to schedule a consultation.