In June 2017, San Francisco enacted a groundbreaking ordinance that requires employers to provide lactating employees with reasonable breaks and a safe, clean space to pump breast milk. The ordinance acknowledged the health benefits and importance of breast feeding to both children and lactating mothers. The ordinance also prohibited employers from retaliating against women who attempted to exercise their lactation rights and provided enforcement procedures. However, the ordinance only applied to employees who worked in San Francisco.
Although California has had basic “lactation accommodation” requirements since 2002, earlier this month, the legislature enacted an amendment to the Labor Code to provide lactation rights, similar to those enacted in San Francisco, to employees throughout the state. The changes to the law provide that a lactating employee is permitted a “reasonable amount” of break time to express breast milk for her child, each time she needs to do so, as well as a private room to express breast milk.
Even prior to these amendments, employers were supposed to provide a room other than the bathroom for an employee to express breast milk. The changes to the law reiterate that the room shall not be the bathroom and also sets forth several additional requirements including that the room must: (1) be safe, clean, and free of hazardous materials, (2) contain a surface to place a pump and personal items, (3) have a place to sit, and (4) have access to electricity or alternative devices (i.e. extension cords or charging stations). In addition, an employer must provide a sink and refrigerator (or other “cooling device” if a refrigerator cannot be provided) for storing breast milk.