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California provides lactating mothers the right to pump breast milk at work under the California Lactation Accommodation law. This law requires most employers to give women a reasonable break from work to pump breast milk and to provide a private location that is: shielded from view; not a bathroom stall; and near or at the employee’s work area. Employers also have to provide a place for women to store their pump and an insulated storage container.

EXCEPTION TO THE LACTATION BREAK REQUIREMENT

Employers, however, can escape the obligation to provide lactation breaks if they can show that to do so would seriously disrupt their business operations. It isn’t an easy showing and requires actual proof. 

PAID vs. UNPAID LACTATION BREAK 

Employers must pay for lactation breaks if the breaks are taken concurrently with lawfully entitled rest breaks, which is generally 10 minutes for every four hours worked. If employees need longer or more frequent breaks, their employers aren’t required to pay for the additional break time. 

BREASTFEEDING DISCRIMINATION

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who pump breast milk, breastfeed, or suffer any related medical conditions. Unfortunately, employers often ignore women’s breastfeeding rights and discriminate against those who try to enforce their rights.

For instance, in 2012, a California teacher sued her former school and school district for wrongful termination and discrimination. According to the teacher’s allegations, she asked her manager for a 15-minute break each morning to pump breast milk. Her manager responded by telling her to train her breasts not to produce milk during school hours so she wouldn’t have to pump. The teacher complained about her manager’s response to human resources. Although the human resource director indicated that everything was a misunderstanding, nothing was done to accommodate the teacher’s request. A few months later, the school district asked the teacher to resign from work due to poor job performance. Of course, the school and school district deny everything. But this is just one example of how a failure to accommodate breastfeeding women and discrimination can arise in the workplace.

This is only a brief discussion on women’s right to pump breast milk at work under California law. If your rights have been violated, consult an attorney. Should you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

JOB-PROTECTED MATERNITY LEAVE

Often a woman doesn’t want to take time off from work to care for herself or her child because she fears that she will lose her job while on leave.  But many women are entitled to job-protected maternity leave. California provides two types.

The first type falls under the California Pregnancy Disability Leave law (PDL) and requires employers with 5 or more employees to provide up to 4 months of leave to women who have a pregnancy disability.

The second type falls under the California Family Rights Act law (CFRA) and requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of leave for women to bond with their baby, bond with an adopted child, or care for themselves or a close family member with a serious health condition. CFRA leave, however, is often not available to women because it applies only to larger employers with at least 50 employees and has other strict requirements.

RETURNING FROM MATERNITY LEAVE

If you take a PDL leave and return to work within the 4-month period, your job is protected. Likewise, if you take a CFRA leave and return within the 12-week period, your job is protected. Regardless if your employer likes your temporary replacement better or discovers that you had several job performance issues before going on leave, your employer must allow you to return to work.

Although your employer must allow you to return to work, you may not get your former position back. If your employer eliminated the position due to corporate restructuring, your employer must give you a “comparable” position in terms of pay, location, job content, and promotional opportunities. Your employer, however, doesn’t have to create a comparable position if one doesn’t already exist. If your employer can prove that a “comparable” position doesn’t exist, he or she can give you a lower paying, lower level, or less prestigious one.

For example, a woman works for a large vacation resort chain as a Sales Manager. She oversees 40 employees and earns $95,000 per year. While on leave, her company eliminates her position by moving the entire sales department to an out-of-state location. When the woman returns from leave, her employer gives her a non-management position in the catering department that pays only $65,000 a year even though a higher paying, management-level position was available in the reservations department. This woman’s leave rights were likely violated because she was not given the comparable position when one existed.

This is only a brief discussion on maternity leave rights under California law. If your rights have been violated, consult an attorney. Should you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

California law provides two kinds of maternity leave. The first is under the California Pregnancy Disability Leave law (PDL), and the second is under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), often called “bonding” leave. Many employers confuse the two or treat them as the same.  Both types, however, provide different benefits and have different requirements.

1. PREGNANCY DISABILITY LEAVE

PDL requires employers with 5 or more employees to provide up to four months of disability leave to women who have a pregnancy disability.

If you work for a small employer with less than 5 employees, your employer does not have to provide pregnancy disability leave.

If your employer provides more than four months of leave for other disabilities, your employer needs to provide the same for a pregnancy disability.

A pregnancy disability means that you are actually disabled by your pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. This includes needing time off for:

      • prenatal care
      • severe morning sickness
      • doctor-ordered bed rest
      •  gestational diabetes
      • pregnancy-induced hypertension
      • preeclampsia
      • childbirth
      • recovery from childbirth or pregnancy loss
      • postpartum depression 
      • any other medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth

You certainly don’t have to be confined to your bed. Your doctor just needs to determine that you are unable to perform at least one essential function of your job without undue risk to yourself, your pregnancy, or others.

If you’re pregnant, make sure your doctor understands what your work duties involve so that your doctor can determine whether it is safe for you to continue performing those duties.

2. CALIFORNIA FAMILY RIGHTS ACT LEAVE

Apart from PDL, you may be entitled to an additional 12 weeks of leave under CFRA to bond with the baby, to bond with an adopted child, or to care for yourself, a parent, a spouse or a child with a serious health condition.

CFRA has stricter requirements than pregnancy disability leave and usually doesn’t apply to small businesses.  To be entitled to CFRA leave, your employer must conduct business in California and have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of your worksite.  You also must have worked for the employer at least one year and worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months before the first date of leave.

If you work for a small business or worked on average less than 25 hours a week during the past year, you likely aren’t entitled to CFRA leave.  You should nevertheless consult an attorney if your employer denies you CFRA leave because employers sometimes hide the true size of their business by, among other things, operating under a DBA name.

This is only a brief discussion on pregnancy disability and bonding leave under California law. If you have been denied leave or treated unfairly due to your pregnancy, consult an attorney. Should you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.