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What protections are in place for working and nursing mothers?

On Behalf of | Sep 17, 2021 | Employment Law

Being a new mother is hard under any circumstance, but it can be especially challenging for those mothers who seek to juggle their responsibilities owed to their child and their family while continuing to work. Ideally, a balance would be struck between the two, but this isn’t always the case.

In fact, new mothers oftentimes find themselves facing significant challenges in the workplace that may leave them wondering what protections they have under the law. Hopefully this post will help provide some insight.

Federal protections under the Affordable Care Act

There are multiple state and federal provisions that seek to protect new mothers in the workplace. One of those is the Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers portion of the Affordable Care Act.

Here, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide nursing mothers with a reasonable amount of time and privacy to pump breast milk while at work. The only way that employers who are subjected to this law can get out of it is if they can show that the accommodation would create an undue hardship. This is a high bar for employers to clear.

It’s worth noting, though, that the Affordable Care Act’s protections, while meant to be broad, leave gaps in coverage. For example, employers who have less than 50 employees are exempt from the law, and the law only covers hourly workers, leaving salaried workers susceptible.

State protections under the Labor Code

Fortunately, state law steps in to fill the gaps. Under Labor Code 1030, every employer is required to give nursing mothers a reasonable amount of time and privacy to pump. If an employer fails to provide the required amount of time or space to pump, then the employee is entitled to recover the equivalent of one hour’s worth of pay for each violation.

Those damages can quickly rack up. Keep in mind, too, that a bathroom at your place of employment does not conform to the requirements of the law. The space provided should be private and sanitary.

Protections under anti-discrimination laws

There are other protections under state and federal laws for nursing mothers, including those pertaining to discrimination. It’s illegal for an employer to fire, demote, or otherwise take a negative employment action against a nursing mother simply because she requests certain accommodations as is her right under the law. Many employers don’t realize that nursing mothers are afforded these protections, which means that violations are common. However, their ignorance doesn’t excuse their breaking of the law.

Gather evidence to support your claim

If you’re a nursing mother who has been wronged at work in some fashion, then you need to consider taking legal action. Doing so could lead not only to the recovery of compensation and/or reinstatement to your position, but it could also give a profound voice to nursing mothers, letting employers know that such reprehensible actions won’t be tolerated.

In order to achieve this outcome, you’ll need strong evidence to support your position. So, be diligent in recording your requests and your employer’s responses, and make sure that you’re retaining all communications. Additionally, track every time that you’re denied the accommodation that you deserve, and talk to other nursing mothers to see if they’ve been subjected to a similar experience.

Once you’ve done all of that you can take a closer look at your case to better determine your next steps. Hopefully that will mean finding accountability and recovering what you deserve.

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