Nursing Mothers Get Increased Protections Starting January 1, 2018
On June 30, 2017, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed the “Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance”, increasing protections for nursing mothers working in San Francisco. Particulars of the ordinance follow:
When: The ordinance will take effect on January 1, 2018.
Who: The ordinance applies to anyone employed within the geographical boundaries of the City of San Francisco, and includes part-time employees. Conversely, the ordinance applies to employers with employees who are working in San Francisco.
What: The ordinance requires businesses to provide employees with breaks and a designated location for lactation. Employers must also notify employees of their right to an accommodation for lactation. The ordinance also requires newly constructed or renovated buildings designated for certain uses to include lactation rooms, and amends the San Francisco building code to specify technical specifications of lactation rooms.
Lactation Breaks – The ordinance does not define a specific period of time for a “lactation break,” but expressly provides that the break should run concurrently with any break time that the employer already provides to the employee, if possible.
Lactation Rooms – According to the ordinance, a “lactation location” or “lactation room” is a space, room, or location that the employer must provide to the employee or designate for nursing mothers to express breast milk. Therefore, a bathroom does not qualify. According to the ordinance, the location should be in close proximity to the employee's work area and be shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.
Other Facility Requirements – The employer must provide access to a refrigerator where the employee can store breastmilk and access to a sink with running water. Both the refrigerator and the sink should be in close proximity to the employee's work area. The lactation location or room may be a multipurpose location provided that the “primary function” of the location or room is a designated lactation location at whatever time the employee needs to express milk. The employer must provide notice to others that the room or location must be used accordingly in the case of a multipurpose location.
Recordkeeping Obligations – Employers will be required to maintain a record of employee requests for lactation accommodations. Records must be kept for three years and include the employee's name, the date of the request, and a description of how the employer addressed the request.
Employer Exemption – Employers can obtain an exemption from the ordinance's requirements if they can show that providing the lactation location and room would impose an “undue hardship” by which they would incur “significant expense or operational difficulties.” Examples of undue hardship include significant construction renovations or removing seating whereby a company's ability to generate business is affected.
Existing Federal and California Law
The Ordinance expands federal and California law regarding lactation in the workplace. California law requires employers to provide a reasonable amount of break time to accommodate employees and make reasonable efforts to provide the employee with a room, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the employee's work area, to express milk in private. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for one year after the child's birth and in a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public.
The lactation ordinance does not permit a private citizen to file a lawsuit to enforce the ordinance. Instead, the office of labor standards enforcement for the city of San Francisco bears the responsibility to initiate any legal action to enforce the ordinance. However, if you feel you have not been afforded the proper accommodations or the breaks you are entitled for breastfeeding or lactation, don't hesitate to contact leading California employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley. Should you have questions about your rights as a nursing mother, call and speak to an experienced California lawyer toll-free at (888) 500-8469 or click here to contact us via email.