California

No more lactation closets: California bill requires cozier breastfeeding rooms

California lawmakers approved a bill Tuesday expanding requirements that employers provide their employees who are nursing with a private lactation room.

Senate Bill 142 requires employers to provide not just a private room for nursing or pumping breastmilk, but also provide access to running water and a refrigerator or space and electricity for an employee-provided cooler.

The bill also gives employers five days to respond to a worker’s request for lactation accommodations “and make reasonable efforts to provide the employee with the use of a room or other location for the employee to express milk in private.”

Employers also would be expected to educate their employees on their right to lactation accommodations.

Then-Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill last year, though signed into law a separate bill requiring employers to supply a private lactation room.

SB 142 is co-sponsored by the groups California Breastfeeding Coalition, California WIC Association and Legal Aid at Work.

“Proponents argue that encouraging new mothers to breastfeed is in the best interest of the employee and the employer,” according to an analysis of the bill. “According to supporters, employers actually realize a return on their investment with reduced absenteeism, increased worker retention and higher reported feelings of satisfaction and productivity.”

It is opposed by several groups, including trade groups like the California Restaurant Association, the California Chamber of Commerce and the California State Association of Counties.

They argue that the bill “is quite burdensome for employers, exposes employers to potential litigation traps and has vague language,” according to the analysis.

Nine senators, one Democrat and eight Republicans, opposed the bill. It now moves on to the Assembly.

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