San Francisco Passes “Lactation In The Workplace Ordinance”

On June 30, 2017, San Francisco enacted the “Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance” to take effect January 1, 2018.  The ordinance applies to all full- and part-time employees working within the geographic boundaries of San Francisco.

Current Requirements Under Federal and State Law
Current federal and California laws require employers to provide a reasonable amount of break time to accommodate employees as they express breast milk, along wih a location, other than a restroom, that is shielded from view and in close proximity to the workplace.

Expanded San Francisco Requirements
The San Francisco ordinance extends federal and California requirements by mandating that the lactation location be safe, clean, and free of toxic or hazardous materials, and contain a surface to place a breast pump, a place to sit, and access to electricity.  The room may be used for other purposes, but employers must notify employees that lactation takes precedence over other uses for the room.   Employers must also provide access to a refrigerator and sink with running water in close proximity to the employee’s worksite.

The San Francisco ordinance imposes an additional notice requirement. Employers must devise a written lactation accommodation policy that includes the following:

  • A statement of the employee’s right to request lactation accommodation;
  • A process for requesting an accommodation that requires the employers to engage in the interactive process and respond to any request in 5 business days;
  • A statement explaining that the employer must provide a written response to the employee if the employee’s accommodation cannot be met that explains the basis for denial of the request; and
  • Notice that retaliation in response to a request is prohibited.

Employers must keep a record of all employee requests for lactation accommodation for three years from the date of the request.

Exemption for Employers
Employers can claim an exemption from the San Francisco ordinance if compliance would pose an “undue hardship” to the employer, such as requiring significant expense, additional construction, or significantly diminishing the employer’s workspace.  Eligibility for this exemption takes into consideration the employer’s size, financial resources, and business structure.

San Francisco employers should be prepared to provide lactation accommodations beginning January 1, 2018.  Please contact your team at the Mitzel Group for additional information.