California Updates Breastfeeding Breaks Law

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

October 5, 2018

Effective January 1, 2019, California's breastfeeding breaks law will be amended to:

  • Prohibit employers from using bathrooms as a location for employees to express milk in private;
  • Establish conditions under which a temporary lactation location can satisfy state requirements; and
  • Provide a special exemption for agricultural employers.

The amendments are all part of Assembly Bill 1976, signed into law recently by Governor Jerry Brown.

Bathrooms Will No Longer Pass Muster

California's breastfeeding breaks law requires employers to provide employees a reasonable amount of break time to express breast milk for their infant children. Currently, employers are required to make reasonable efforts to provide employees with the use of a room or other location, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the employee's work area for the employee to express milk in private.

"As a result, an employer could choose to make the bathroom a designated space for women to express breast milk, which is neither comfortable nor sanitary," said the bill's author, Assemblymember Monique Limón.

The bill will amend the breastfeeding breaks law to specify that a bathroom will no longer satisfy the requirements for a private location - unless the employer can demonstrate to the California Department of Industrial Relations that doing so would impose an undue hardship when considered in relation to the size, nature or structure of its business.

The federal breastfeeding breaks law already requires that employers provide a location other than a bathroom, but it applies only to employees who are exempt from overtime requirements. California's breastfeeding breaks law applies to nonexempt and exempt employees alike.

Temporary Lactation Location

The bill also establishes that a temporary lactation location will comply with state requirements if the following conditions are met:

  • The employer is unable to provide a permanent lactation location because of operational, financial or space limitations;
  • The temporary lactation location is private and free from intrusion while an employee expresses milk;
  • The temporary lactation location is used only for lactation purposes while an employee expresses milk; and
  • The temporary lactation location otherwise meets the requirements of state law concerning lactation accommodation.

The law does not require employers to say "temporary lactation location" five times fast in order to take advantage of this provision.

Exemption for Agricultural Employers

Finally, the bill will provide an exemption for agricultural employers, allowing them to satisfy the private location requirement if they provide employees with a "private, enclosed and shaded space, including, but not limited to, an air-conditioned cab of a truck or tractor."