Most job tasks in California can be done by both women and men. Therefore, it is illegal to discriminate by treating one gender better than the other. However, there are certain things that are unique to women alone. Women are the only gender who can become pregnant, which has long been an issue for employers and sometimes discriminate against them because of these perceived problems. Another thing that is unique to women, which stems from the pregnancy, is that they are the only gender who can produce breastmilk for babies.
This can also create potential difficulties for employers, but just like the fact that employers cannot discriminate against pregnant women, they also cannot discriminate breastfeeding mothers and must follow certain rules to allow them to do it.
Employers must allow women the right to take breaks and pump breastmilk. If possible it should be done during the women’s normal breaks, but if it cannot be done during those times they must allow them additional breaks. Also, the employers must provide women with spaces or rooms where they can pump or breastfeed with privacy. This room or space cannot be a bathroom stall either.
There is one exception to these rules and that is that employers do not need to allow extra breaks if doing so would seriously disrupt operations. However, except for that minor exception, if employers violate these rules or discriminate against women who breastfeed in other ways, the women may have a sex discrimination claim against the employer. If successful the employer may be required to compensate the employee for the damages they cause.
There are many women in the workforce in California and many will become or are pregnant. Not only are pregnant women protected against discrimination, but those protections continue after the pregnancy and they must be allowed to pump or breastfeed at work. Experienced attorneys understand the rules and women’s rights and may be a useful resource.