Please note: As of January 20, 2021, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.
Worker at Solvang restaurants denied nursing mother’s rights, employer retaliated after employee complained about hostile workplace
LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Department of Labor investigated two popular Solvang tourist restaurants and determined that they denied wait staff break time to express breast milk in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that Paula’s Pancake House and the Belgian Café, which share common ownership, denied the nursing mother her right to break time to express milk in the workplace. The employer also retaliated against the woman when she voiced concerns, investigators determined.
“Employers must accommodate the needs of workers to express milk” said Susan Bacon, assistant director of the Wage and Hour Division in Los Angeles. “These restaurants denied a woman her legally required break time and basic facilities and, when one employee spoke up for herself, the employer retaliated against her for requesting something that is well within her rights.”
The investigation disclosed that managers at Paula’s and the Belgian Café verbally discouraged the employee from taking breaks to express breast milk. Additionally, the employer failed to offer express milking facilities that were shielded from public view, or free from coworkers’ and public intrusion.
The investigation found that retaliatory actions included the employer reassigning one employee to a later shift and moving her to a slower counter section of the restaurant in an attempt to reduce impact on customer service during her pump breaks. These changes directly impacted her ability to earn tips and came after she requested time and space to express milk.
The division found the restaurants’ actions established a hostile environment for all nursing mothers, discouraging them from taking their breaks fearing retaliation of losing their section or shift.
To address the investigation’s findings, the owner of Paula’s Pancake House and the Belgian Café has signed a compliance agreement with the department, requiring the employer to provide training on FLSA compliance to management staff, and paid $666 in back wages and damages to the employee for the retaliatory actions that reduced her schedule.
The FLSA’s Section 7 requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child. Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk. For more information, visit dol.gov/whd/nursingmothers.