Back Pay for Nursing Mother Forced to Quit



Working for You

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When new mom Crystia Light returned to work after the birth of her son, she asked her employer for unpaid break time to express breastmilk for her baby – and was turned down.

Crystia knew that federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break time for mothers to express milk for one year after a child’s birth, so she filed a complaint with the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division. Our investigators found that her employer, Capitol Loans Inc., doing business as Republic Loans Altus, had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s provisions for nursing mothers.

After our investigation, Crystia’s situation at work deteriorated. Unhappy with the findings, the employer – among other things – threatened to fire her if she took break time under the FLSA. Republic Loans made her work life so difficult that, rather than put up with the situation, she quit.

Crystia Light and her son Crystia Light and her son

The employer’s willful disregard for the law and human dignity set off an unfortunate chain of events for Crystia. She found work with a different employer but had to take a $300-a-week pay cut. Because of this drop in income, her family could no longer afford a home of their own. To make up the difference, her husband took a better paying job in Tulsa. Crystia and the baby stayed behind in Altus, OK, living with family, while her husband moved four hours away – a sad situation for a new family.

But then things took a turn for the better because, before Crystia quit, she again reported her employer to the division.

Our investigation found Republic Loans had again violated federal law, this time by retaliating against Crystia for exercising her rights. We also found she was owed more than $3,000 in back wages. The company has agreed to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act going forward.

Crystia wasn’t expecting any money out of the case: she just wanted to make sure that her former employer won’t treat other employees this way. But with the back pay owed her, she is paying the first month’s rent and the security deposit for a new apartment in Tulsa so the Light family can be reunited.

Editor’s note: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act  to require 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.

And if you’re concerned about your company’s pay practices, or you are an employer who wants to be sure you are complying with the law, learn more on the Wage and Hour Division’s website or by calling 1-866-4-US-WAGE (1-866-487-9243).

The DOL Working for You series highlights the Labor Department’s programs in action. View other posts in the series here.

Juan Rodriguez is a public affairs specialist for the department in Dallas.

 

Rechazaron a mamá lactante tiempo para producir leche

Por Juan Jose Rodríguez

Una vez reincorporada a su trabajo tras dar a luz a su bebé, Crystia Light pidió que le dieran descansos no pagados para poder producir leche materna para su hijo recién nacido. Su empleador, sin embargo, le negó la solicitud.

Crystia sabía que por ley federal los empleadores están obligados a dar a las trabajadoras que acaban de tener hijos periodos razonables de descanso durante el primer año tras el nacimiento del bebé para que puedan obtener leche materna, y por eso presentó una queja ante la División de Horas y Salarios del  Departamento de Trabajo. Nuestros investigadores comprobaron que Capitol Loans Inc., su empleador más conocido como  Republic Loans Altus, había violado las disposiciones de la Ley de Normas Razonables de Trabajo relativas a madres lactantes.

La situación laboral de Crystia deterioró después de nuestra investigación. Descontentos con los resultados, el empleador -entre otras cosas- la amenazó con despedirla caso que dispusiera del tiempo de descanso amparado por la ley. Republic Loans Altus le hizo la vida tan difícil que terminó renunciando antes que seguir aguantando la situación.

El intencional menosprecio a la ley y a la dignidad humana por parte del empleador puso en marcha una desafortunada cadena de acontecimientos para Crystia. Aunque encontró trabajo con otro empleador, tuvo que sobrellevar una reducción salarial de hasta $300 por semana. Debido a esta caída en sus ingresos, su familia ya no pudo permitirse tener casa propia. Su marido tomó un trabajo mejor pagado en Tulsa para poder compensar la diferencia mientras que Crystia y el bebé permanecieron en Altus, Oklahoma, viviendo con familia, mientras que su esposo estaba a cuatro horas de distancia, una triste situación para una nueva familia.

Pero las cosas dieron un giro a mejor ya que antes de renunciar, Crystia reportó de nuevo a su empleador ante la División de Horas y Salarios.

Nuestra investigación halló que Republic Loans violó nuevamente la ley federal, esta vez por haber tomado represalias contra Crystia por haber ejercitado sus derechos. También determinamos que se le debían más de $3000 en salarios atrasados. La empresa se ha comprometido a cumplir con la Ley de Normas Razonables de Trabajo de cara al futuro.

Crystia no esperaba ningún dinero como resultado del caso. Lo único que quería era asegurarse que su antiguo empleador no iba a tratar a otros empleados de la manera como a ella la trataron. No obstante, con el pago retroactivo de los salarios que le debían, ella está pagando el primer mes de alquiler y el depósito de seguridad para un nuevo apartamento en Tulsa. La familia Light volverá a estar junta.

Nota del editor: La Ley Para la Protección del Paciente y la Atención a Precio Módico enmendó la sección 7 de la ley FLSA para exigir que los empleadores provean tiempos razonables de descanso para que una empleada puedan extraerse leche de los senos para su bebé lactante. También requiere que los empleadores proporcionen un lugar, que no sea un cuarto de baño, bloqueado de la vista de otros, y libre de la intrusión de compañeros de trabajo y del público, que pueda ser utilizado por una trabajadora para obtener leche materna. Para más información visite www.dol.gov/whd/nursingmothers 

Y si te preocupan las prácticas de pago de su empresa, o eres un empleador que quieres estar seguro de que estás cumpliendo con la ley, conoce más visitando el sitio de la División de Horas o llamando al 1-866-4-US-SALARIO (1-866-487-9243).

La serie DOL Working for You destaca programas en acción del Departamento de Trabajo. Mire otras historias de la serie aquí.

Juan Jose Rodríguez es especialista en información pública del departamento en Dallas.


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Comments

The article doesn’t clearly describe the circumstances of the situation. First, we don’t know if Crystia knew in advance that her employer could provide an adequate space for her to express her breast milk. There have to be hundreds of thousands of employers in the US that can’t provide space for a nursing mother to express their milk. Think of the jobs that would not have a place for employees: taxi drivers, fast food workers in small locations, bus drivers, truck drivers, mom and pop businesses, plumbers, electricians, and hundreds of artisan trades. The list goes on and on. In that case, what do employees do? Do they go to their cars, home, or?

Secondly, how was the request made? Was this after she returned to work? Perhaps she could have planned in advance with her employer to return after a year if there was no accomodation possible for her to express milk. The article insinuates that the employer refused without any conversation, or otherwise. We have zero facts about this situation. DOL, help me understand here.

Lastly, we never hear from the employer in these blogs or cases. It is a completely biased article and information. More facts would be fair, and appropriate.

Note: Obamacare “amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to require employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk. 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. The break time requirement became effective when Obamacare was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The Wage and Hour Fact Sheet #73 “Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA” and the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) posted below provide basic information about the law.”

1. Employers need to make "reasonable accommodations. Cynthia worked in an office, which can certainly make accommodations.

2. She isn't required to request it before returning to work and saying that she should come back to work after a year ignores the reality that her family clearly needed her income. In the United States we have 0 days of guaranteed paid leave, one of only 3 nations to leave families unprotected. There is no guarantee that her job would still be there in a year even if she COULD afford to take unpaid time away.

Her situation is indicative of deep policy gaps in America's public health system.

-a public health practitioner

It somewhat terrible that you assume the nursing mother must be at fault, that her employer was simply trying their best and failed to comply with a law they simply couldn't follow because it was specious and irrational. If you read the law, or did the least bit of research before casting such an asperse claim against nursing mothers, you would realize the degree of leniency that the law provides for employers, see part (3) of section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards act :

"An employer that employs less than 50 employees shall not be subject to the requirements of this subsection, if such requirements would impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business."

I do presume that this Bank had resources to provide a variety of privacies for men and women, which is reinforced by the fact that the investigation by the DOL found the employer to be in violation. I don't see any particular quotes from the victim of the discrimination, so I'm not exactly sure which facts you are seeking to create a fair and appropriate article. This is not a legal proceeding, or a publication in a scientific journal, it is a blog article. I appreciate you having an opinion, but it's an opinion that does damage to child-rearing for no good reason.

We all have to come into this world as helpless infants, and the mothers who care for us make us the people we are. Working mothers who also work to express and breastfeed ought to be supported and our government, and for that matter our businesses, should actively seek to do so. I applaud the efforts of the Department of Labor and the Fair Labor Standards Act to treat our working mothers with dignity, and to hold companies responsible for allowing decent human society to flourish.

Dear SDVeteran,

Here is a fact for you... The fact is that I find no relevance in your three points of view.

1. The article does clearly describe the circumstances of the situation "that are relevant to a reader". This is a Blog not a trial and your not a Judicial Judge needing to decide the case. It is totally irrelevant if the employer can provide a place or not as this was not mentioned as a concern in the case.

2. How or when the request was made is irrelevant to the companies lack of abiding with the request according to the Law. Your statement that "perhaps she could have planned in advance with her employer to return after a year..." Have you considered that she, just like everyone else who is WORKING, may need the job to provide for her family and can not afford to take an unpaid year long leave of absence? Working = self sustaining, contributing by paying taxes and to society. Way to Go!!! Crystia and all of the other working moms out there!! The article does not insinuate or fail to give us readers any facts that are relevant to our need to know basis.

3. Its not true that we do not hear from the employer in these blogs or cases or that It is a completely biased article and information. As an educated reader I hear that the employer was asked to comply with the Law and refused. The employer was properly reported for wrongfully violating FLSA and a qualified investigators found that her employer had indeed violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s.

We also know that the employer not only denied her Rights but also engaged in retaliation and threatened to fire her if she took break time under the FLSA which is illegal. The employer was again reported for willful wrong doing before Crystia quit. A qualified investigator did an investigation and found the employer had again violated federal law, this time by retaliating against Crystia for exercising her rights. This is why she was entitled to back wages.

Thanks Juan Rodriguez for publishing this blog and good luck to you, Crystia Light, May God bless you and your Family.

I see Amanda... you and the government determine what an employer can/can't do because it's an "office." That makes zero logical sense. I didn't say she was required to discuss her situation with her employer in advance... only that that it is a logical and reasonable, and courteous to talk with your employer in advance about have to express milk. I know she isn't required to talk with her employer in advance... you missed the point of my comment. And finally, you believe there are deep policy gaps in America's public health system? I'm not sure what a policy gap is, but I do think Obamacare has and will negatively impact Public Health in the following ways. It will decrease income for employees (historical fact with new health care plan is introduced), it will be expensive, and it will take from Medicare in the long run. So I agree, Obama has seriously and negatively impacted America's public health system, and perhaps most critically - mental health benefits - which were completely missed in Obamacare. A serious flaw which is one reason it should be completely repealed with each State having their own plans.

There have been employers in all of those situation who have found a way to obey the law. One city set up shelters for bus drivers to go to during breaks. Taxi drivers could pump at the office they are based out of though some may prefer to find a place to pump in their cab. I have had many patients who pumped in a fast food restaurants. Workers in agriculture or construction use pop up tents or modified portapotty shells. The employer cannot say it is too hard when it clearly is not. They violated the law and caused undue hardship to this family.

Another response that has no clue about my comments. I'm talking about courtesy, respect, and logic. Logic and courtesy dictates that you might want to check with your employer about seeing how best to handle your situation - in this case expressing milk... in advance. And let's stop assuming that this loan company had some sort of place this activity could take place. There aren't facts here for an opinion of that magnitude. I too applaud the efforts of the DOL, but I take offense when the facts aren't portrayed.

My apologies if I misconstrued your comment, I do not believe I suggested respect or logic should be discarded. I agree and see your sentiment that courtesy certainly is the basis of good social interaction, and whenever legal action can be avoided, it should be. What I found disturbing was your assumptions, without fact, about the mother, Crystia. You also assumed she did not have a polite conversation with her employer and seek to make some kind of arrangement. She may not have, in which case it would have been beneficial for her to have done so. I think the fact that the business took punitive extra-judicial action against her is indicative of the lack of respect and civility on the part of these particular employers however relationship though. I regret that they give employers and business owners a bad name.

Legally, regardless of whether they had adequate facilities, they did refuse her the unpaid time off to express. If they lacked the facilities, then the law would not force them to find such space. But to first deny her the right to take unpaid leave and then to harass her into departure, are not indications of a business interested in following the law or even caring for it's employees.

I agree that breast milk reduces infections, can aid in reducing obesity, and a whole host of other benefits. That's not the issue here. The article portrays the employer as if the employee had zero input, responsibility, courtesy, or respect about expressing milk - and how to plan for that. Perhaps the employer really didn't have a place for her? And I was clear in my post about the blatant discrimination against this employer when so many other employers (taxi company, truck drivers, artisan contractors, small business, and on-and-on couldn't provide a "space" other than a bathroom for an employee to express milk.

You are right you do not know the facts but I do. This company only allowed 3 weeks of maternity leave or forfeit your job. That us a fact the rest you do not need to know.

I find it concerning that some employers who employ mothers of infants do not support their needs to express milk for their children. In a broader risk management view, it is a proven fact that infants who get their mother's milk during infancy experience fewer childhood illnesses. If the child has less illness, the employee will have not only less stress in her life but will likely be available to do her job, with less leave time taken to deal with the child's illness.

In the broader societal view, it is better for our children to be healthy and thriving. The need for health care is less and that benefits all of us. What is so hard about allowing a few minutes to perform this function? It would make a more supportive, pleasant workplace where all employees could benefit from human kindness.

Interesting case , I am in the UK. Looking at the comments above I think the prudent employer who has women of childbearing age working for them would anticipate that this might be a requirement in the future and plan for it. There are similar requirements in the UK. This is a public health issue as providing a child with breast milk for as long as possible does really provide the best start for them in life.In the UK most mothers get 6-12 months paid maternity leave to facilitate this.
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of:
infections, with fewer visits to hospital as a result
diarrhoea and vomiting, with fewer visits to hospital as a result
sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
childhood leukaemia
type 2 diabetes
obesity
cardiovascular disease in adulthood
http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/benefits-breastfee...

if i may , laws are in place to help society flourish with structure. in some cases the laws would never be needed if the people were courtious to others taking in the situations and making exceptions as matter of policy . since most people apply for managment positions to satisfy their own ego,or the position generates a god complex . the laws are needed due to the absence of people with integrity in management positions.

The mother decided to have a family, which is great, and wants to do what is best for her children. However, why is the burden always the Employers? not all businesses can make these accomodations and we have to very careful on what and how we react to special treatments requests out of fear of lawsuits. Did the ladies co-workers all expect to get extra "smoke breaks" so their work time is the same as hers? It might be taboo to voice that normally, but I would say here that I bet they would have as I have seen similar situation before. I am careful about who I hire as I need hard workers for my business to survive. You can say all day long how it is going to make society better in the long term, but if a small business is caught up in dealing with the DOL, and giving special treatment to some employees, and then other employees feeling they are not treated equally, and they want to work less to compensate. . . it can cause lots of problems. . . . I just wonder if the DOL decides to make a requirement that you have to make a toddler playpen under the desk or cash register of every parent with a toddler so they can bring them to work. .. . we wouldn't want them to have a hardship compared to a single person. ... And before you start railing on me as a businessperson . . . I am a single parent with 3 kids and I keep my work and personal life separate when I didn't own my own business. One of my children has a disability. I think that if there is a burden, and it benefits society enough for a law to be made, then the society should pay for it. . . . It should not be placed on the random small business that a new mother happens to work for. It should be paid for as evenly as possible, and that is what the federal tax system is meant to do.

I just think the DOL rules are often ridiculous. . . . just like the overtime changes they are making for salary employees. If you have a secretary on salary, they won't need to get the overtime, but anyone working in a retail store would not get an exception even if they made a salary of 35,000 a year. . .. Makes no sense to me except the the DOL probably doesn't want to pay it's secretaries overtime because they are budget limited. Did they think about me? Last two years as the owner I have made less than my full time employees which 35k a year. Now I have to pay them overtime if they are taking emails or making calls away from work!

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