New Ordinances Strengthen Protections for Mothers in the Workplace

By Kelsey Basten

Published on August 8, 2017

This year, employment law has seen new ordinances to increase protections for mothers in the workplace at the state and city levels. Like minimum wage, there is little to no movement at the federal level, so states, cities and counties are taking matters into their own hands.

Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance – San Francisco

Most recently, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed the city’s new Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance June 30. The ordinance will take effect Jan. 1, 2018, and requires lactation accommodation requirements that go beyond the federal and California state laws.

Under the new ordinance, lactation rooms must:

  1. Be safe, clean and free of toxic or hazardous materials
  2. Contain a surface to place breast pump and personal items
  3. Supply a place to sit
  4. Have access to electricity

It also states that employers must provide access to a sink with running water and a refrigerator close to the employee’s workspace.

Lastly, all employers must implement a written lactation accommodation policy that:

  1. States the employees have a right to request lactation accommodation
  2. Clarifies how employees can request lactation accommodation
  3. Explains to employees that the employer will respond within five business days of the request
  4. Requires an interactive process to determine the appropriate breaks and lactation location
  5. Warns against retaliation

This policy must be distributed to employees upon hire and when an employee requests either pregnancy or parental leave.

If employers fail to comply between the dates of Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2018, the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) will issue warnings and notices to correct the violation(s). After Jan. 1, 2019, the OLSE may issue penalties of $500 per violation and $50 per day for each employee to whom the violation occurred.

Currently, federal and California state laws only require that employers provide reasonable break time and a place (that is not the bathroom) free from coworker intrusion for employees to express breast milk.

Amendment to Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act

Next, the State of Massachusetts introduced a new amendment to the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act Aug. 1. The amendment will take effect April 1, 2018.

The amendment states that pregnancy or any related condition (including, but not limited to, lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child) are protected characteristics, and employers cannot discriminate against employees based on these conditions. It also prohibits employers from retaliating against pregnant employees who request reasonable accommodation.

So, what defines reasonable accommodation?

  1. More frequent or longer breaks
  2. Time off
  3. Alteration or attainment of seating or equipment
  4. Temporary transfers
  5. Job restructuring
  6. Private, non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk
  7. Manual labor assistance
  8. Modified work schedule

The amendment also states it is unlawful to deny employment because of an employee’s pregnancy or reasonable accommodation.

Furthermore, keep an eye out for more ordinances in states, counties and cities like these. GovDocs Labor Law News will be following up as these ordinances roll out.

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