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Whataburger illegally fired Texas employee for pumping breast milk, feds say

The Texas-based fast-food chain denied an employee time to breastfeed, then fired her.

By Sarah Bahari

Whataburger illegally denied an employee time to pump breast milk and must pay her lost wages, the U.S. Department of Labor said. / Shaban Athuman / Staff Photographer

Whataburger illegally denied an employee time to pump breast milk and must pay her lost wages, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.

The Texas-based fast-food chain owes the woman $1,800 and must provide training on labor laws to all managers as part of an agreement with the department.

According to the department, the corporate-owned location in Lubbock refused to give the breastfeeding mother time to pump milk. When the employee left the premises to pump, the restaurant fired her.

“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, the department’s wage and hour district director in New Mexico, said in a statement.


Whataburger owes the former employee $900 in back wages and $900 in liquidated damages, the Labor Department said.

Although it declined to comment on this particular situation, Whataburger said in a statement that it is committed to supporting parents as they balance work and family.

“For more than 72 years, we have employed thousands of working mothers (and parents) and pride ourselves on the flexibility and support we offer so they can spend time taking care of their children,” the statement said.

Under federal law, employees who are nursing have the right to reasonable break time and a place — other than a bathroom — to pump breast milk for up to one year after the child’s birth. The space must be shielded from view.

That law does not require employers to pay employees for these breaks. However, if paid breaks are provided to all employees, then nursing mothers can use those breaks to pump milk.


The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, at which time complementary foods can be introduced. But the organization says breastfeeding continues to offer benefits beyond one year and up to two years.

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