How to Comply with San Francisco's Lactation Law

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In 2018 San Francisco made news with their new Lactation In The Workplace Ordinance (LWO) that requires all employers in the city to provide a dedicated space for breastfeeding employees to pump at work.  The Ordinance builds on the federal FLSA “Break Time For Nursing Mothers,” as well as California State law, that mandate break time and a dedicated lactation space. But the San Francisco Ordinance is far more specific--and stringent--about what employers need to do to be in compliance.

 

The Ordinance will be monitored and enforced by San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE). For 2018 OLSE only issued warnings, but starting January 1, 2019, penalties will be $500 per violation and employers who fail to comply may be fined up to $50 per day.  

 

If you’re not sure what the San Francisco Ordinance requires, or are unsure how to be in compliance, we’ve identified three key things you need to do.

1) Provide a private and sanitary lactation space.

The requirements for lactation spaces under San Francisco’s Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance are more stringent than either the Federal FLSA or California state law. In addition to mandating that lactation spaces must be private, secure, and not a bathroom (as do both the FLSA and CA state law), the ordinance notably exceeds these requirements by stipulating that all lactation spaces also need to:

  • be clean and free of hazardous materials

  • have a place to sit

  • have a surface for a breast pump

  • include electrical outlets

  • have easy access to a refrigerator and sink

  • be in proximity to the employee’s work area

  • be primarily designated as a lactation space

2) Write a lactation accommodation policy.

The Ordinance also requires that employers have a written lactation accommodation policy that clear communicates the following:

 

  • A statement that your workplace supports the rights and needs of breastfeeding employees.

  • A summary of the legal requirements of the Ordinance.

  • A clear protocol for requesting lactation accommodations. The San Francisco Department of Health provides models of lactation accommodation policies and request forms. Companies need to respond to lactation requests in writing (or email) within five business days.

  • A process for identifying break time. When possible, the break time should be concurrent with break time already provided. (The time it takes to reach the lactation space is not counted as break time.)

  • A list of available lactation spaces for breastfeeding employees.

3) Create a process for accommodation requests.

  • Discuss the lactation accommodation policy with employees prior to maternity leave.

  • Keep all requests for lactation accommodations for three years. Be sure to include the employee’s name, date, and a summary of how the request for lactation accommodations was met.

  • Create a protocol for mothers to file complaints if they experience harassment or other forms of discrimination in the workplace based on their decision to pump.