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Two Solvang restaurants cited for denying nursing mother’s rights

Paula’s Pancake House and The Belgian Cafe in Solvang, were cited by the U.S. Department of Labor in an investigation into violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The Labor Department released an updated report into the investigation on Wednesday in which says they found the two restaurants, which share the same owner, “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.”

The report also states: “The investigation disclosed that managers at Paula’s and the Belgian Cafe 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 report further states.

The Labor Department’s findings claim the restaurants’ actions created a hostile work environment “for all nursing mothers, discouraging them from taking their breaks fearing retaliation of losing their section or shift.”

“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 owner of Paula’s Pancake House and the Belgian Cafe signed a compliance agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor that requires the owner to pay $666 in back wages and damages to the employee that sparked the investigation, and provide adequate training on FLSA best practices and compliance to management staff.

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