Whataburger illegally fired nursing mom who was denied time to express milk: Inside the feds’ ruling

Whataburger (Whataburger)

LUBBOCK, Texas – An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor found that a corporate-owned Whataburger illegally fired a nursing mother after she left the restaurant to express breast milk.

Investigators with the Wage and Hour Division determined that the Lubbock, Texas, restaurant failed to provide break time for the mother to express milk, as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

When the mother left the restaurant building, investigators said she was later fired after returning.

“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,” said Wage and Hour District Director Evelyn Ortiz in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Employers must comply with all of the Fair Labor Standards Act provisions, including the right of nursing mothers to request the time and space they need to express milk without fear of retaliation.”

After the investigation, the mother received $900 in back wages and $900 in liquidated damages.

It’s unclear when the incident and firing occurred based on the Department of Labor’s brief to the media on Thursday.

Most nursing employees have the right to reasonable break time and a place that is shielded from view to express breast milk while at work, as noted by the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act.

As a result of the violation, the franchisor, based in San Antonio, signed an Enhanced Compliance Agreement stating it will provide FLSA compliance training to all managers in the future.

A spokesperson for Whataburger released the following statement below:

“Whataburger understands the unique challenges facing nursing mothers at work and has an official company policy that upholds the right to time and privacy. We strongly believe that nursing mothers have the right to reasonable break time and a private place, other than a bathroom, to express breast milk.

“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.

“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.”

About the Author:

A graduate of the University of Houston-Downtown, Ana moved to H-Town from sunny southern California in 2015. In 2020, she joined the KPRC 2 digital team as an intern. Ana is a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur, a catmom of 3, and an aquarium enthusiast. In her spare time, she's an avid video gamer and loves to travel.