As working new moms return to the workplace, employers need to remember pre-pandemic workplace requirements, such as lactation accommodations. At the start of 2020, California’s enhanced lactation accommodation law went into effect.

Under the law, every employer must provide a reasonable amount of break time to accommodate an employee expressing breast milk for the employee’s child each time the employee needs to express milk. The break shall, if possible, run concurrently with any break already provided to the employee. If the break does not occur at the time of other authorized rest time, the time does not need to be paid. This may mean employers need to provide an employee with more breaks and longer breaks to allow the employee time to express breast milk.

For breast milk expressing employees, employers must provide a room or other location, other than a bathroom, in close proximity to the employee’s work area, which is private and free from intrusion while the employee is expressing milk. The location must be safe, clean, and free of hazardous materials and have the following:

  • A surface for a breast pump and personal items;
  • A place to sit; and
  • Have access to electricity or alternative devices like extension cords.

Moreover, the employee must have access to a sink with running water and a refrigerator or other cooling device suitable for storing milk in close proximity to the employee’s workspace.

An employer that employs fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from the location requirements if it can demonstrate that providing a private room or other location would impose an undue hardship, including significant difficulty or expense.

Employers also must have a policy regarding lactation accommodation that includes how an employee can request an accommodation.

Since the law went into effect last year, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office has also published a Frequently Asked Question page, to assist employers with compliance.

Employers in San Francisco should note that the city and county of San Francisco has a separate Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance, that has its own requirements. The San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement has issued an FAQ for that ordinance.

If you have questions regarding lactation accommodation compliance or need assistance in developing a lactation accommodation policy contact a Jackson Lewis attorney to discuss.