- The managers at an Arizona Chipotle violated federal law when they refused a worker's request to pump breast milk during her shifts, according to a proposed class action complaint (Hendrix v. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. No. 2:20-cv-01595 (D. Ariz. Aug. 12, 2020)).
- The managers refused to let cashier Noel Hendrix take breaks to express breast milk, claiming on one specific occasion that the restaurant was too busy and that "she should have managed her time better before coming into work." This refusal caused her breasts to visibly leak, which prompted one manager to allow her a 15-minute break.
- Shortly thereafter, a manager told Hendrix that "he had a business to run and could not stop everything" for her to pump, Hendrix alleged in court documents. The manager told Hendrix any complaint she made to corporate would be futile, as he was "untouchable," the complaint says. The managers discriminated against Hendrix on the basis of her sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Discrimination that stems from pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination for covered employers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Employers found in violation of the law's requirements have paid hefty amounts to settle charges. Last year, for example, a jury awarded an Arizona paramedic who was a nursing mother $3.8 million after it found that she was subjected to discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and the related condition of breastfeeding and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But Title VII isn't the only federal law that applies to nursing mothers. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that companies provide non-exempt employees a private space, other than a bathroom, where employees can pump breast milk and reasonable break time to do so for one year after a child's birth. The space must be shielded from view and intrusion from co-workers and the public, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Employers need not pay a nursing mother for these breaks unless she is using otherwise paid break time.
Employers should also be aware that state and local laws may apply and provide greater protections for pregnant employees and job applicants.
Bank of America recently agreed to make nationwide workplace changes after the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division investigated and alleged the bank violated the FLSA by failing to provide reasonable break time and a space free from intrusion for a nursing mother to express breast milk at a Tucson, Arizona, location.
Experts have recommended that employers go beyond the FLSA's requirements by developing a corporate lactation policy and provide a space that only nursing mothers are allowed to use that has a comfortable chair, a locking door, an electrical outlet and a table.