On June 30, 2017, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed the “Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance”. This new law expands the protections provided to nursing mothers under California (and federal law) for nursing mothers employed within the “geographic boundaries” of San Francisco.
What’s required under California and federal law?
The California Labor Code requires employers to provide employees who are nursing mothers with a private location and a reasonable amount of time to express breast milk during the workday. The private location cannot be a bathroom and it must be shielded from view and free from intrusion. Employers are also required to make a reasonable effort to provide a private, secure, and sanitary room or other location where an employee can express her breast milk that is in close proximity to the employee’s work area.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to provide employees who are nursing mothers with “reasonable break time” to express breast milk during the workday for at least one year after the child’s birth. Like California law, the FLSA requires employers provide a private location that is not a bathroom for this purpose.
What does the Ordinance require?
The Ordinance requires that employers provide a “lactation location” that:
- Is safe, clean, and free of toxic or hazardous materials;
- Contains a surface upon which to place the breast pump and personal items;
- Contains a place to sit; and
- Has access to electricity.
In addition, the employer must provide the employee with access to a sink with running water and a refrigerator that is in close proximity to the employee’s workspace. Finally, if a “multi-purpose room” is used also for lactation, the use of the room for lactation takes precedence over other uses.
In addition, employers must also implement a lactation policy that meets the following requirements:
- The policy must include a statement about the employee’s right to request a lactation accommodation and the process for requesting an accommodation.
- The policy must be included in the employee handbook.
- The policy must be distributed to
- New employees upon hiring and
- When an employee inquires about or requests parental leave.
Employers must respond to an employee’s request for a lactation accommodation within 5 business days of receipt of the request and, if the employer cannot provide break time and/or a location that is compliant with the ordinance, the response must be in writing.
Employers must also maintain a written record of these requests for 3 years from the date of the request.
Recommended action for employers
The new ordinance goes into effect on January 1, 2018. It is recommended that all San Francisco employers review these requirements and verify that they are able to comply with these new requirements.