Lactation Accommodations in California

As more women enter the workforce, accommodations have to be made to keep them there.  One of the more recent accommodations is giving women access to expressing their breast milk after the birth of their child.

Federal government laws under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provide that, a lactating mother must be provided with a reasonable break time to express her milk for “…each time such employee has need to express the milk…” for up to one year after a child’s birth.  And in 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) officially adopted the position that lactation is protected by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). Therefore, not allowing an employee time to express breastmilk, could result not only in FLSA violations, but also an equal employment discrimination lawsuit under the PDA.

California has a reputation for being a progressive state, and in keeping with that reputation the state has had laws on the books regarding lactation accommodations since 2002.  These first laws require employers to provide reasonable break time and a location for employees to express breast milk.

Moving forward, cities and counties within California became even more progressive with many laws providing specific work places for mothers to express their milk.  (In the past, women had no choice but express their breast milk in a bathroom stall.  Hardly, the most germ-free of places!)  San Francisco went so far as to having employers notify employees of their lactation accommodation rights.  And, in 2017, San Francisco enacted a law requiring employers to provide employees with a designated location for lactation. Additionally, these new laws (effective January 1, 2018) required newly constructed or renovated buildings designated for certain uses to include lactation rooms, and amended the San Francisco building code to specify technical specifications of lactation rooms.

Taking everything a step further, in October of 2018, California Governor Gavin Newsome signed Senate Bill 142, introduced by California State Senator Scott Weiner (of San Francisco, of course).  The new laws take effect on January 1, 2020.

Here are some of the upgrades to California’s lactation accommodation bill.

The new law specifies that an employee will be provided with break time every time she needs to express her milk.  She will also be provided with a room in close proximity to her work station – and definitely NOT a bathroom.

The room itself must:

  • Be safe, clean, and free of hazardous materials, as defined by the statute;
  • Contain a surface to place a breast pump and personal items;
  • Contain a place to sit; and
  • Have access to electricity or alternative devices, including, but not limited to, extension cords or charging stations needed to operate an electric or battery-powered breast pump.
  • Provide access to a sink that provides running water.
  • Contain a place to sit; and
  • Have access to electricity or alternative devices, including, but not limited to, extension cords or charging stations needed to operate an electric or battery-powered breast pump.

For more information visit the State of California website at leginfo.legislature.ca.gov

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