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Lactating mothers should know their rights for pumping at work

New mothers who are breastfeeding a baby shouldn't have to choose between feeding their baby and going back to work. Fortunately, workers in California have special laws that protect them from having to make this choice.

In 2001, a law passed here that requires employers to provide breastfeeding mothers with time and space to pump breast milk. A federal law stipulates that lactating mothers should have the accommodations and breaks for up to one year after the baby is born.

In California, there isn't a set amount of time that must be provided per pumping break. Instead, the law simply notes that the time must be reasonable. Unfortunately, the lack of clear guidance here might pose a problem for working mothers. Women who work for an employer who meets federal guidelines have more clear conditions to help them determine the amount of time allotted for each pumping session.

The location where employees pump breast milk has to be a private location that is shielded from the view of the public. It mustn't be in the bathroom, as the bathroom is forbidden by both state and federal laws as a suitable place for pumping mothers.

Typically, pumping breaks aren't paid breaks. This is one thing that the mothers should remember. The employer can ask them to clock out to pump. If the woman uses a regular paid break to pump, that would still be a paid break.

When employers don't follow the law regarding lactation breaks, the mother might choose to push the issue with legal action. This is her right so that she can have what she needs to pump milk for her baby.

Source: Los Angeles County, "Women, Work & Breastfeeding," accessed Oct. 06, 2017

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