California Expands Lactation Accommodation Rights for Employees
Effective January 1, 2020, the Labor Code has been amended to enhance the provisions pertaining to lactation accommodation. The legislation will require an employer to provide a lactation room or location that includes prescribed features and to provide access to a sink and refrigerator, all near the employee’s workspace. It also makes the denial of reasonable break time or adequate space to express breast milk a failure to provide a rest period in accordance with state law. It also requires employers to develop and implement a lactation accommodation policy that advises employees of their rights.
SB 142 amends Labor Code section 1030, which, in part, provides that “Every employer, including the state and any political subdivision, shall provide a reasonable amount of
break time to accommodate an employee desiring to express breast milk for the employee’s infant child each time the employee has need to express milk.” Consequently, the provisions of SB 142 apply to public employers, including school districts and community colleges.
Labor Code section 1031 is amended to provide that the employer must provide an employee with the use of a room or other location for the employee to express milk in private. The lactation room or area must have the following features:
- It cannot be a bathroom
- It must be in close proximity to the employee’s work area
- It must be shielded from view, and free from intrusion while the employee is expressing milk
- It must be safe, clean and free of hazardous materials
- Provide a place to sit
- Provide a place to place a breast pump and personal items
- It must have access to electricity or charging stations for a battery-powered breast pump
- Provide a sink with running water and a refrigerator or other cooling device suitable for storing milk, both in close proximity to the employee’s workspace
- And if the lactation room or area is a multipurpose room, the use of the room for lactation must take precedence over the other uses while it is being used for lactation purposes.
If the employee needing the use of a lactation room or area is a subcontractor, like a temporary employee, the employer must provide the same room or area with the same features within two business days upon the written request of that employee.
SB 142 also amends Labor Code section 1033 to provide that if an employer denies an employee reasonable break time or adequate space to express milk, the employee can file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner. An employer also cannot discriminate or retaliate against an employee for exercising her rights. The Labor Commission may issue a citation and impose a civil penalty in the amount of $100 for each day that an employee is denied reasonable break time or adequate space to express milk.
SB 142 also amends Labor Code section 1034, which requires employers to develop and implement a policy regarding lactation accommodation. The policy must include the following:
- A statement about the employee’s right to request lactation accommodation
- The process by which the employee can make that request
- The employer’s obligation to respond to that request
- A statement about the employee’s right to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner.
The employer must include the new policy in the employee handbook or otherwise make the policy available to employees. And the employer must distribute the policy to all new employees or an employee who inquires about or requests parental leave.
Lastly, if an employer cannot provide break time or a location for lactation that complies with the policy, the employer must provide a written response to the employee.