Sen. Weiner’s, Assemblymember Gonzalez’s bill to support lactation at work passes

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Sacramento – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez’s (D-San Diego) bill to support lactation in the workplace passed the Senate with 25-9 vote. It now heads to the Assembly for committee hearings in the coming weeks.

Senate Bill 142 is modeled on Senator Wiener’s SB 937 from 2018, which passed the Legislature, but was vetoed by Governor Brown.

SB 142 requires that businesses 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.

“New mothers should not have to choose between returning to work and breastfeeding their newborn,” said Senator Wiener. “When we fail to provide adequate lactation accommodations it forces women, especially low-income workers, to make the difficult decision to leave their jobs or 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 U.S. workforce. 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.

“Providing a safe and comfortable place to pump or breastfeed at work is a fundamental preventative health measure for both babies and breastfeeding moms,” said Assemblywoman Gonzalez. “I want to thank my Senate colleagues for passing this important legislation to require that California businesses are family-friendly workplaces.”

“Breastfeeding is one of the best preventative health measures for both babies and breastfeeding parents and bestows significant economic benefits,” said Jenna Gerry, staff attorney with Legal Aid at Work. “Yet, lower-income parents are less likely to breastfeed than higher-income parents, due in large part, to lack of workplace lactation supports. Too often, this forces our clients to make the impossible choice between their family’s health and their family’s economic security. By providing meaningful guidance to employers on how to support breastfeeding parents, SB 142 will ensure that no Californian has to make this choice and we are thrilled to see it make it off the senate floor today.”

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 Senators Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) and Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), and Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland).

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