• A Texas Whataburger didn’t provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk, the DOL said.
  • When the nursing mother left the premises to express milk, the company fired her, the DOL said.
  • Employers have to give staff reasonable break time to express milk for a year after the child’s birth.

A Whataburger restaurant in Texas fired a nursing mother for leaving the site to express breast milk, the Department of Labor says.

The corporate-owned restaurant in Lubbock, northwest Texas, failed to provide reasonable break time for the employee to express breast milk, the DOL said. And when she did leave the premises to express milk, the company terminated her, the DOL said.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are required to provide staff with reasonable break times to express breast milk for their nursing child for one year after the child’s birth.

“An employer may not deny a covered employee a needed break to pump,” the DOL says. Employers are also required to give staff a place to pump at work that isn’t a bathroom and is shielded from view and free from intrusion.

The DOL said that following its investigation, Whataburger had signed an Enhanced Compliance Agreement stating it would provide FLSA training to all managers in the future and had given $900 in back wages and the same amount in liquidated damages to the worker.                                                                              

“Depriving a nursing mother of her right to express breast milk with enough break time to do it, and then firing her is against the law,” Evelyn Ortiz, district director of the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said in a statement.

“Employers must comply with all of the FLSA provisions, including the right of nursing mothers to request the time and space they need to express milk without fear of retaliation.”

Whataburger did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment, made outside of regular working hours. A spokesperson for the Texan burger chain told NBC-affiliate KPRC that it had a company policy that “upholds the right to time and privacy” for nursing mothers at work.

“While we are unable to comment on this particular situation, we are committed to supporting nursing mothers — and all parents — as they balance work and family,” the spokesperson added.

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