California Significantly Strengthens Its Lactation Accommodation Law. Other States Are Likely to Follow

02 December 2019 Labor & Employment Law Perspectives Blog
Authors: Krista M. Cabrera

Earlier this year, the New York City Commission on Human Rights published robust model policies for employers to use in guiding compliance with the city’s lactation accommodation law. Not to be outdone, California has enacted a new law, set to take effect on January 1, 2020, that significantly alters the state’s lactation accommodation statute. 

Among other requirements, California’s new law requires that the room provided to employees for expressing breastmilk contain a surface on which to place a breast pump and personal items, a place to sit, and access to electricity or alternative devices needed to operate an electric or battery-powered breast pump. The new law further requires employers to provide access to a sink with running water, a refrigerator suitable for storing milk in close proximity to the employee’s workspace and, if the employer offers a multipurpose room for lactation, that its use for lactation take precedence over other uses.

Perhaps most notably, the new law includes an anti-retaliation component and provides for specific penalties that employees may recover when employers fail to comply. Finally, the new law requires employers to implement a detailed policy regarding lactation accommodation, including, among other things, a statement about an employee’s right to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner for any violation of the lactation accommodation law.

Employers, particularly those operating in multiple states, should review and update their handbooks and/or new hire packets to ensure compliance with the ever-changing landscape of accommodating employees who wish to express breastmilk at work.

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