The controversies surrounding breastfeeding in the media have extended to workplaces on several occasions. While pregnancy is often the more discussed topic, some companies and businesses have had issues with their employees breastfeeding in the past, leading to some workers facing acts of discrimination.
While federal laws now require employers to make efforts to provide new mothers with the right space and amount of time to breastfeed their baby, a newer bill passed by Governor Jerry Brown clarifies the duties a California employer must perform to find the right space for an employee to lactate.
The new law
Since the original law was relatively vague on what the employer had to do to find the right location for the worker to breastfeed, Assembly Bill 1976 aims to make clear what these reasonable efforts should include. They can make a temporary location available to the worker as long as:
- They are unable to find a permanent location in the vicinity.
- The location is private.
- The location is only for breastfeeding.
- The location meets the state’s law on breastfeeding accommodation (it is in close proximity to the employee’s work area and not in a bathroom).
The only workers that the law makes an exception for are agricultural employees. It specifies that agricultural employers can have workers breastfeed in an air-conditioned truck or tractor given the lack of private and shaded spaces in the area.
Old traditions die hard
While the new bill aims to ensure that employees can have a temporary private location for breastfeeding, there are still some elements of the previous law present. For example, the newer law states that the employer must find a location other than a bathroom that is near the worker’s area. In the original law, it was other than a toilet seat. However, the toilet seat rule applies if the employer can prove that trying to find a temporary location in the building is “an undue hardship”. The governor also vetoed a bill that would have given the private rooms more requirements.
Even if there are still some limitations, this is a big step forward in preventing discrimination against employees who must take time to breastfeed their child. If your employer fails to accommodate to these newer regulations, know that it is against California law to discriminate against a breastfeeding employee and that you have the right to file a claim against their actions.