My wife is 5 days overdue with our first child. Once the baby is out my wife wants to breastfeed our daughter. Although my wife no longer works, I couldn’t help but wonder, what are a new mom’s rights in the workplace? Can you breastfeed on the job? What if your boss doesn’t let you? Can you use a breast pump at work? Does your boss have to provide you with a private room, or do you have to do it in a bathroom stall?
In 1998, California’s legislature resolved to improve the life of Mom’s in the workplace. It passed a series of statutes, including California Labor Code § 1030-1033. The most important is § 1030:
Every employer…shall provide a reasonable amount of break time to accommodate an employee desiring to express breast milk for the employee’s infant child. The break time shall, if possible, run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee. Break time for an employee that does not run concurrently with the rest time authorized for the employee…shall be unpaid.
Many employees never even bother to read the employee handbook. That’s understandable. They are long, boring, and mostly full of lawyery language that makes the average joe want to shoot himself. I get it.
Well, many California employers have employee handbooks (as they should), and many of them include within the handbook an arbitration clause. What is arbitration and why should the employee care? According to the American Arbitration Association:
Arbitration is the submission of a dispute to one or more impartial persons for a final and binding decision, known as an “award.” Awards are made in writing and are generally final and binding on the parties in the case.
Arbitration basically is an alternative to filing a lawsuit in court. There are many advantages and disadvantages to arbitration. But I’m not writing here to talk about that. What I’m interested in, is whether or not they are enforceable. Meaning, if you sue your boss for sexual harassment, discrimination, or some other employment claim, can you employer force you into arbitration to take your claim out of the court system?
I mentioned in an earlier post that I would post more information on the California Supreme Court decision Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court. The Brinker decision was huge in the employment law world. It clarified some of the most tricky wage and hour issues.
Here are a few of the important rulings:
Lunch breaks: An employer is supposed to give a 30 minute uninterrupted meal break to employees who work more than five hours. An employers obligation is to relieve its employee of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to use the meal period for whatever purpose he or she desires. The employer does not need to ensure that no work is done. An employer cannot discourage or impede meal periods. If the employer has the employee do work during his or her lunch break, the employee must be paid for it. If the employer relinquishes control and the employee decides to keep working with the employers knowledge, then the employer must still pay the employees hourly rate, but not an additional premium. For those who like bullets:
- Employees who don’t work more than 5 hours don’t get a meal period.
- Employees who work over 5 but not more than 6 hours get a meal period, unless they’ve waived it in writing. If they don’t waive it, the meal period must begin by the end of the 5th hour.
- Employees who work more than 6 but not more than 10 hours get a meal period regardless of whether there’s a waiver. The meal period must begin by the end of the 5th hour.
- Employees who work more than 10 hours get a second meal period. If they don’t work more than 12 hours they can waive the second meal period. If they don’t waive it, the meal period must begin by the end of the 10th hour.