Senator Wiener & Supporters Announce New State Bill to Support Lactation in the Workplace for Working Women

January 29, 2018

San Francisco – Today, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) joined state and local legislators, business leaders, and advocates to announce a bill to support women in the workplace by requiring lactation facilities and resources be provided to employees in California. The announcement took place at San Francisco-based company Stitch Fix, whose CEO Katrina Lake has been a leader in providing comprehensive lactation facilities and promoting other family-friendly policies. Joining Senator Wiener at the announcement was San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang, who authored San Francisco’s Lactation Ordinance, which went into effect on January 1 and which made San Francisco a national leader in requiring lactation facilities in businesses. Senator Wiener and his colleagues drew inspiration from Supervisor Tang’s work.

Senator Wiener is joined on SB 937 by joint author Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) and principal co-author Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), who serve, respectively, as vice chair and chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. Also co-authoring the legislation are Assemblymembers Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) and David Chiu (D-San Francisco). 

SB 937 requires businesses to provide lactation facilities for their workers, requires that lactation facilities be built in new construction, and ensures employees receive information about their rights to a safe and comfortable lactation space at work.  The bill also requires the state to come up with model policies that businesses can implement to meet the requirements of SB 937. 

“If we’re serious about gender equity in the workplace - as we should be - we need to make it much easier for women to return to work after having a child,” said Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). “When women are able to return to work and receive reasonable accommodations - such as lactation facilities - they advance and keep pace with their male counterparts. By contrast, when women are effectively discouraged from working, they fall behind, and gender inequity is the result. Family-friendly workplaces increase gender equity, improve families’ health, and are good for business. Inadequate lactation accommodations often lead women, especially low-income workers, to make the difficult decision to leave their jobs or to pay for expensive formula. Providing a safe and comfortable place for women to lactate will keep infants and women healthier, and keep more women in the workforce.”

“Employers that provide family-friendly workplaces reinforce the value of work-life balance and help foster job satisfaction and employee retention,” said Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino). “By providing support to employees who choose to breastfeed their infants, employers send the important message that their employees are critical to their success.  I look forward to working with Senator Wiener in the months ahead to ensure passage of this legislation.”

“Working women should never have to choose between work and what they choose to do as mothers,” said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). “These accommodations will have a greater impact on our blue collar working mothers who traditionally have had the least access and have a limited voice in changing workplace policies. These women need our support now more than ever.”

“Women should not have to choose between breastfeeding their children and keeping their jobs,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco).  “We know breastfeeding leads to better health outcomes for both mother and baby, and no woman should be denied that opportunity because of inadequate accommodations in the workplace. I appreciate Supervisor Tang’s leadership on this issue and look forward to working with Senator Wiener to get this bill passed in Sacramento.”

SB 937 is modeled on Supervisor Katy Tang’s Lactation Facilities ordinance, which went into effect on January 1, 2018. Supervisor Tang’s ordinance defines mandatory minimum standards for lactation accommodation, requires a workplace lactation policy, a process by which employees request lactation accommodation, and also requires new construction and renovations of a certain size and occupant load to include lactation facilities.

"For many women living in a place as expensive as California it is not a choice, but a necessity, to go back to work to provide for their families," said Supervisor Katy Tang. "Through our local lactation ordinance we wanted to normalize the process of requesting a lactation accommodation and make sure employers understood what a safe, clean, and welcoming lactation space looked like. I thank everyone who helped make our ordinance possible, and commend Senator Wiener for making families a priority statewide."

Mothers are the fastest growing segment of the workforce in the United States. Even though two out of three mothers return to work after childbirth, only 52% of mothers have workplace breastfeeding support. Women with adequate break time and private space are more than two times as likely to be breastfeeding exclusively at six months as women without lactation accommodations. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and to continue breastfeeding for at least the next six months, during which time appropriate complementary foods are added to the infant’s diet.        

SB 937 is supported by Legal Aid at Work, the California Breastfeeding Coalition, and the California Work and Family Coalition, who were all represented at the press conference.  Also attending the announcement were Dr. Emily Murase, Director of the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, Elaine Wherry, co-owner of Dandelion Chocolate, and Ruthie Arevalo, a working mother who talked about the struggles that she and other working mothers have with breastfeeding in the work place. 

“No one should have to give up breastfeeding in order to return to work,” said Julia Parish, Staff Attorney, Work & Family Program, Legal Aid at Work. “Low wage workers in particular face barriers accessing lactation accommodations. This bill will reduce disparities and support new patents.”

SB 937 does the following:

  • Requires an employer to provide lactation space for workers, or apply for an undue hardship waiver with the Labor Commissioner. Employers in multi-tenant buildings may share a space with multiple employers, which will accommodate small business needs. Lactation spaces may not be in restrooms, must provide access to running water and refrigeration nearby, must include seating and a table, must have enough space to comfortably lactate (e.g., not a broom closet), and must provide privacy.
  • Requires the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement to establish best practices for lactation in the work place
  • Establishes a process for employees to receive an outline of the company’s lactation policy both upon hiring and when an employee inquires about or requests parental leave
  • Requires the California Building Code to be updated to include new lactation spaces in new buildings over 15,000 square feet as a condition of their building permit
  • Outlines a process for a mother to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner if she is denied access to a lactation space
  • Protects employees from retaliation by their employer for inquiring about, or requesting, lactation space by authorizing them to file a direct complaint with the Labor Commissioner

SB 937 Bill text