Breastfeeding in public is not a crime in any state. In California, a mother may breastfeed her child in almost any location, public or private. Further, employers must provide a reasonable amount of break time to accommodate breastfeeding employees, and must make reasonable efforts to provide the employee with some room – other than a toilet stall – to express milk in private.
California law provides that “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, except the private home or residence of another, where the mother and the child are otherwise authorized to be present.” Cal. Civil Code § 43.3.
CWLC works to ensure that breastfeeding mothers know their rights, and works to defend breastfeeding mothers’ legal rights.
- In April 1999, CWLC sued Borders Bookstore after an employee asked a patron not to breastfeed in public. Borders settled the case and agreed to educate their employees on a woman’s right to breastfeed in public.
- In early 2001, an employee at a restaurant in Southern California asked a mother to stop breastfeeding at her table “because she was violating health codes.” The CWLC intervened, and the restaurant apologized and revised its policies to inform employees of a woman’s right to breastfeed in public.
- In June 2001, a woman in San Mateo, California, was asked by an employee to stop breastfeeding at a public pool. She was told that her actions violated public health codes and constituted indecent exposure and nudity. Pool staff later informed her that they were afraid her breastmilk “might infect the pool water.” The government settled the case and public pool employees are now properly trained as to a woman’s right to breastfeed in public.
- In December 2001, employees of the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas refused to let a woman breastfeed her child in their restaurant, asking her to “go somewhere more private.” The woman and her family contacted CWLC upon their return to their home in California, and Treasure Island settled the case, further agreeing to provide their employees with proper training regarding the legal right of women to breastfeed in public.
- In February 2002, on an American Airlines flight, a mother was told that if she wanted to nurse her child, she would need to put a blanket over her and her baby. The CWLC intervened and American Airlines clarified that it was not their policy to disallow mothers from breastfeeding on flights.
- In 2007, a woman was terminated by her employer because she asked for ten minutes a day during her break time to express her breast milk. Despite the fact that there was space available, her employer stated: “I don’t have room for you to do the breast milk pumping.” CWLC helped the woman file a complaint, and her employer agreed to settle. She received lost wages, back pay and expenses.
Read more about the Rights of Breastfeeding Mothers.
Download CWLC’s Fact Sheet on Mothers in America.
Download CWLC’s Breastfeeding: Know Your Rights guide.
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