NEW LAW: California Expands Existing Lactation Accommodation Law

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed Assembly Bill 1976 into law.  This new law amends California’s existing lactation accommodation law and places new responsibilities on employers.

Under the old lactation accommodation law (California Labor Code 1030, et. seq.), an employer was merely required to do the following to accommodate the nursing mother:

  • provide a reasonable amount of break time, which should, if possible, run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee; and
  • make reasonable efforts to provide the employee with the use of a room or other location, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the employee’s work area, for the employee to express milk in private.

Under the new law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2019, the employer’s obligations are greatly expanded.  The first change is that the law makes it clear that the employer must provide the employee with the use of a room or other location, other than a bathroom, that is close to the employee’s working space to privately express milk.

The law also permits an employer to makes a temporary lactation location available to an employee, provided that all of the following conditions are met:

  • The employer is unable to provide a permanent lactation location because of operational, financial, or space limitations.
  • The temporary lactation location is private and free from intrusion while an employee expresses milk.
  • The temporary lactation location is used only for lactation purposes while an employee expresses milk.
  • The temporary lactation location otherwise meets the requirements of state law concerning lactation accommodation.

The new law also addresses how agricultural employers can meet the new requirements.  Specifically, the law states that an agricultural employer shall be considered to be in compliance with this law if the agricultural employer provides an employee wanting to express milk with a private, enclosed, and shaded space, including, but not limited to, an air-conditioned cab of a truck or tractor.

It is recommended that all California employers review their policies and procedures with respect to accommodating nursing mothers to verify that they will be in compliance with the new law come January 1, 2019.