Senator Wiener and Assemblywoman Gonzalez Re-Introduce Bill to Support Lactation in the Workplace for Working Women

SB 142 will ensure working mothers have access to lactation facilities in the workplace, and help create more family friendly work environments
January 18, 2019

San Francisco – Today, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) re-introduced a bill to support women in the workplace by requiring lactation facilities and resources be provided to employees in California. Senate Bill 142 is modeled off of Senator Wiener’s SB 937 from 2018, which passed the Legislature, but was vetoed by Governor Brown.

SB 142 requires businesses to provide safe and clean lactation facilities for their workers that meet minimum requirements, requires that lactation facilities be built in new construction, and ensures employees receive written information about their rights to a safe and comfortable lactation space at work.

“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 Wiener. “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.”

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.      

“When I was a new mother breastfeeding at law school, I was forced to use an open space in a bathroom on a dirty couch. No new mother should ever have to go through that,” said Assemblywoman Gonzalez. “Not providing working moms with a safe and comfortable place to pump or breastfeed at work puts a barrier on her baby’s ability to eat. I’m proud to join Sen. Scott Wiener in authoring this fundamental preventative health measure for both babies and breastfeeding parents.”

SB 142 does the following

  • Requires an employer to provide employees with a safe and comfortable lactation space that meets minimum requirements. Employers in multi-tenant buildings may share a space with multiple employers, which will accommodate small business needs. Lactation spaces may not be in bathrooms, must provide access to running water and refrigeration nearby, must include seating and a place to put the pump, 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 a model lactation accommodation request form and encourages the agency to create a model policy and best practices for lactation in the work place.
  • Establishes a process for employees to receive the company’s written lactation policy both upon hiring and when an employee inquires about or requests parental leave.
  • Requires the California Building Code to be updated to require lactation spaces in new buildings over 15,000 square feet and with a projected project cost over one million dollars 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 or reasonable break time to pump.

SB 142 is sponsored by Legal Aid at Work, the California Breastfeeding Coalition, and the California WIC Association, and is also co-authored by Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), and Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland).

Quotes:

“Today women with children are the fastest growing segment of the workforce and most choose to breastfeed,” said Robbie Gonzalez-Dow, Executive Director of the California Breastfeeding Coalition. “Legislation to improve workplace support for lactating employees is the right thing to do for the health of California, but that workplace support not only benefits the health of the parent and child, it benefits the employer too! Companies both large and small benefit from providing a lactation support program. Workplaces with a lactation support program see significant payoff with more satisfied, loyal employees and cost savings in retention of employees, reduction in sick time taken by both parents for children’s illnesses, and lower health care and insurance costs. The California Breastfeeding Coalition understands how critical lactation support is to individuals meeting their breastfeeding goals, and we are pleased to co-sponsor workplace lactation support legislation.”

“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, Senior Staff Attorney at Legal Aid at Work.  “Yet, widespread discrimination against breastfeeding workers and inadequate supports often force working parents to either stop breastfeeding or lose their job.  Workplace lactation laws, like SB 142, increase breastfeeding rates, empower breastfeeding workers to ask for and receive the lactation accommodations they need, and ensure every parent can feed their child how they choose without risking their livelihood.  We are thrilled to be a co-sponsor and work with Senator Wiener in pushing this essential legislation forward.”