Bill to Support Lactation in the Workplace for Working Women Passes the California State Assembly

Senator Wiener’s Senate Bill 937 to create the strongest workplace requirements for working mothers in the country passes the California Assembly and heads to Senate for Final Vote
August 28, 2018

Sacramento – Today, Senator Scott Wiener’s bill, Senate Bill 937, to guarantee that working mothers have access to lactation facilities in the workplace passed the Assembly with 50 votes. It now moves to the Senate for its final vote this week, and if passed will head to the Governor for his signature.

SB 937 is joint authored by Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino). Also co-authoring the legislation are Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), Monique Limón (D- Santa Barbara), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), and Jesse Gabriel (D- Encino).  SB 937 is sponsored by the California Breastfeeding Coalition, the California Federation of Teachers, and Legal Aid at Work.

SB 937 requires businesses to provide lactation facilities for their workers 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. 

“We must do all we can to support all women in the workplace, which includes making sure that when new mothers want to return to work after having a baby, they are able to do so without sacrificing the ability to continue to breastfeed their children,” said Senator Wiener. “Family friendly workplace policies like having access to safe and clean lactation accommodations benefits employees and employers who want to support and retain their workers. I’m proud to join my joint-author Senator Leyva in helping to ensure that women can make choices that are best for themselves and their newborn children.”

“As Vice Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, I have been proud to work alongside Senator Wiener this year as joint author of SB 937 to foster family-friendly workplaces that support employees who choose to breastfeed their infants,” said Senator Leyva. “This critical legislation encourages mothers to breastfeed, as research has demonstrated the long term benefits to infants, by ensuring that employers provide reasonable accommodations within the workplace.”

SB 937 is modeled on San Francisco 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.

“From talking to working moms, we found that the workplace presents many barriers that prevent mothers from even having the choice to provide breastmilk for their children, which is why we passed a Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance in San Francisco in 2017,” said Supervisor Katy Tang. “Thank you to my former colleague Senator Scott Wiener for recognizing the need to expand this policy statewide, serving to normalize conversations around breastfeeding and pumping in the workplace and making it easier for mothers to access clean and safe lactation spaces no matter their working environment.”

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.

"Since women with young children are the fast growing segment of the workforce, it is vital for the workplace to evolve just as the workforce has,” said Robbie Gonzalez, Executive Director of the California Breastfeeding Coalition. “We receive calls regularly from parents expressing concerns about not having a private, secure space to pump at work. They are often afraid that someone is going to walk in on them while they are pumping. Some are told to pump in the bathroom! We also receive calls from employers who are unclear about what is a reasonable lactation accommodation. Employers are seeking guidance and want to support their employees. They just don't know how. SB 937 solves these problems by setting minimum lactation accommodation standards and provides needed guidance to employers."

“Breastfeeding is one of the best preventative health measures for both babies and breastfeeding parents and a key strategy to improve public health,” said Jenna Gerry, Staff Attorney at Legal Aid at Work.  “No one who chooses to breastfeed should have to worry about access to a clean, private space to pump milk, and no one should have to fear negative consequences at work just to feed their baby. SB 937 is an easy but vital step to empower parents to ask for and receive the lactation accommodations they need so they can feed their babies how they choose without risking their livelihood.”

"As a new mother who has had to choose between teaching my class and walking 20 minutes across campus to pump in a non-private room, I know how important it is to expand lactation accommodations,” said Mia McIver, a California Federation of Teachers leader and Lecturer at UCLA.  “Families, co-workers, and communities will benefit when lactating moms have time and space to provide for their baby's nutrition without fear of being punished at work."                     

Under SB 937, employers will be required to support working parents by:

  • Educating employees on their right to a lactation space upon hiring and upon inquiry about pregnancy leave,
  • Accommodating lactation requests when a parent returns to work by providing a clean, comfortable, and private space adequate for lactation,
  • Protecting employees from retaliation in the workplace after exercising their right to request lactation accommodations,
  • Requiring the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement to produce a model request form for accommodation and authorizing the Department to provide a set of best practices for employers.

Link: SB 937 Bill text http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB937