May is my favorite month. It’s warm, but not too warm. The Lilacs and lilies of the valley bloom. Both Mother’s Day and Chinese Breastfeeding Awareness Day (which is May 20th) are in this month. It’s also AAPI Heritage month.
When I returned to work three months after giving birth, I had to crouch in a toilet stall to pump breast milk. When I talked to my supervisor about my need of having a private space to pump, she told me that I don’t need to breastfeed. When I stood up against my employer for not accommodating me as a nursing mom, the company agreed to pay a monetary settlement. But just like 2/3 of women dealing with breastfeeding discrimination in the country, I ended up losing my job.
What I learned from my experience is that you need to know your right to practice your right. So today, I’m going to write down the important lactation rights that all my fellow California moms and expecting moms should know.
Your employer should provide a private space and break time for you to pump at work.
Before your maternity leave, ask your employer about these rights.
Your employer cannot treat you worse because you are breastfeeding or pumping milk.
An employer discriminates against or harasses an employee because of lactation is against the law.
You can take breaks that are not during lunch break or “on your own time” to pump.
Your employer must provide a reasonable break time to pump, even if pumping requires additional breaks that are longer than normal.
Your employer cannot require you to pump in the bathroom.
Your employer must provide you with a clean, private space that has an area to sit, a surface to put your breast pump, has electricity, and is in close proximity to a refrigerator and sink. However, if an employer has fewer than 50 employees and can show it would be extremely difficult to meet one of these requirements, they may not be required to do so. Visit legalaidatwork.org/wf or call 800-880-8047 for advice about specific situations.
It is not kindness for employers to support breastfeeding parents; it’s the law. Parents have the right to a private space and break time to pump milk, free from harassment or retaliation.