Q. Are we required to give our employees additional rest breaks in order to express breast milk?
A. California employees are entitled to time to express breast milk. However, this break time may run concurrently with break time already provided to employees.
California employers are required to allowto take a rest period in the middle of each work period (insofar as practicable) at the minimum rate of 10 minutes for each four hours worked.
Section 1030 of the California Labor Code requires employers to provide a reasonable amount of break time to accommodate workers to express breast milk for an infant. However, an employer is not required to provide an employee break time for purposes of lactating if it would seriously disrupt the operations of the employer.
The break time provided to your lactating employees shall, if possible, run concurrently with any break time you already provided to that employee. However, employers are not required to pay for lactation breaks that do not run concurrently with rest breaks that are authorized by the applicable wage order of the Industrial Welfare Commission.
Employers are also required to make reasonable efforts to provide workers with a room or other location (other than a toilet stall) in close proximity to the workers’ work area, for the employee to express milk in private.
Final note: The federal health care reform law enacted in 2010—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—also included an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act requiring employers to provide rest breaks and space for nursing mothers to express breast milk. However, that federal law does not pre-empt a state law such as California’s.