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Does your employer have to allow you to pump at work?

If you have welcomed a new baby into your family, you may have some excitement and anxiety about returning to your job when your family medical leave ends. You should not, however, worry about losing the opportunity to feed breast milk to your baby. After all, both California and federal law protect your right to express breast milk during your work day.  

From post-pregnancy weight loss to a healthy immune system, there are many benefits of breastfeeding. When you are not with your infant, of course, expressing breast milk is necessary for your overall health and wellbeing. If your manager does not accommodate your need to pump, you may be the victim of pregnancy-related discrimination.  

Timing of lactation breaks

For most employees, your employer must provide you with reasonable break time to express breast milk. While there is no bright-line rule, you likely need at least 15 or 20 minutes to pump. You also may require additional time to prepare for pumping or to store milk after you finish.  

If you can express breast milk during your normal break and mealtimes, your employer must allow you to do so. Nevertheless, if you need additional breaks, or if you need to take your breaks at atypical times, your employer must likely accommodate your needs.  

Location of lactation breaks

While there are exceptions, an employer must generally provide you a private place to express breast milk. The location of your lactation breaks should be somewhere away from your coworkers, customers and others. Additionally, your employer likely cannot make you take your lactation breaks in a public restroom.  

Accommodating nursing mothers should be good for employers and employees. If you believe your employer is not giving you the post-pregnancy accommodations you deserve, you may need to act quickly to protect your health, your job and your legal rights.  

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