California Expands Lactation Accommodations and Imposes Penalties On Employers For Missed Lactation Breaks

Oct 29, 2019

Employment Law Alert
 
Lactation Law SB 142
 

 
Breaks and Location
 
Obligations to provide break time and lactation accommodations are significantly expanded by SB 142. Starting January 1, 2020, California employers must now provide:
 
1. Break time to allow employees to express breast milk “each time such employee has need to express milk.”

2. A lactation room (other than a bathroom) close to the employee’s work area, shielded from view and free from intrusion when in use. It must also:
a. be safe, clean, and free of hazardous materials;
b. contain a surface to place a breast pump and personal items;
c. contain a place to sit; and
d. have access to electricity (or alternative device) to power a breast pump.

3. Access to a nearby sink with running water and a refrigerator (or cooling device) for storing milk.
 
Exceptions
 
SB 142 contains exceptions for certain employers, including those in multi-unit worksites and those who designate a temporary lactation location due to operational, financial, or space limitations. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from lactation room requirements that impose an undue hardship in relation to the size, resources, or nature of the business.
 
Legal Liability
 
SB 142 also creates potential exposure for employers who fail to comply with its lactation rules or discriminate on the basis of an accommodation request. Denial of reasonable break time or adequate space to express breast milk is deemed a violation of California Labor Code Section 226.7, triggering premium wage payments as well as civil Labor Commission penalties.
 
Required Policies
 
California businesses must also include specific lactation accommodation policies in their employee handbooks. The policies must detail the employee’s right to request lactation accommodations, the process by which requests may be made, the employer’s obligation to respond, and information about employee rights to file complaints with the Labor Commissioner.
 
Action Items
 
Before the end of the year, California employers should review their policies and prepare to provide required lactation breaks and location accommodations. They should also draft and distribute a compliant lactation policy to all employees prior to SB 142’s January 1, 2020, effective date.
 
If you have questions regarding this alert, contact Lisa Von Eschen, Esq., Chair of the Employment Law Department at The Maloney Firm, APC at lvoneschen@maloneyfirm.com or Samantha Botros at sbotros@maloneyfirm.com


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