Lactation Policy


All California employers are subject to specific lactation accommodation laws. Recently however, San Francisco’s mayor signed the new “Lactation in the Workplace” ordinance in June which will become effective on January 1, 2018.  This ordinance is mandatory and applies to all San Francisco employers.

This ordinance imposes lactation accommodation requirements that go beyond those that federal and California law currently impose. 

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act amended the federal Fair Labor Standards Act to require that employers provide reasonable break time for employees to express breast milk for one year after a child’s birth. The employer also must provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”

California Labor Code Section 1030 also requires employers to provide reasonable break time for expressing breast milk. The California law does not put a time limit on the amount of time an employee may need to express milk. In addition, the employer must make “reasonable efforts to provide the employee 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 breast milk in private.”

San Francisco’s ordinance also requires employers to provide a reasonable break as a lactation accommodation. The lactation break may be unpaid if it does not run at the same time as the state’s mandatory rest periods for nonexempt employees. 

San Francisco’s new lactation accommodation ordinance imposes more exacting standards for lactation rooms. It requires that the room (1) be safe, clean, and free of toxic or hazardous materials; (2) contain a surface to place a breast pump and personal items; (3) contain a place to sit; and (4) have access to electricity. The employer also must provide access to a sink with running water and a refrigerator in close proximity to the employee’s work space. Some undue hardships compliance exemptions do exist under the ordinance.

An employer may be exempt from the ordinance if its requirements would impose an undue hardship, meaning that the accommodation would significantly impact the employer’s business or bottom line, as opposed to mere inconvenience to the employer. For example, the ordinance suggests that it would be an undue hardship for a restaurant employer to grant a lactation accommodation if it would require the restaurant to remove seating or would require construction to comply.

Beginning January 1, 2018, all San Francisco employers must implement a written lactation accommodation policy that (1) specifically states that employees have a right to request lactation accommodation; (2) tells employees how they can request lactation accommodation; (3) informs employees that the employer will respond within five business days to the request; (4) requires an interactive process to determine the appropriate breaks and lactation location; and (5) warns against retaliation.

The employer must distribute this policy to all employees upon hire and when an employee requests either pregnancy leave or parental leave. If the employer has an employee handbook, the handbook must include the lactation accommodation policy.

There are also specific recordkeeping requirements under this ordinance. Employers must maintain the following information for three years: (1) the name of the employee who requested lactation accommodation; (2) the date of his or her request; and (3) a description of the request’s resolution.

The ordinance prohibits retaliation and requires that an employer’s written lactation accommodation policy include a no-retaliation provision. The ordinance presumes retaliation if the employer takes an adverse employment action against an employee within 90 days of the employee engaging in protected ordinance activity. To rebut the presumption, the employer must present clear and convincing evidence that the employer took the action solely for nonretaliatory reasons.

From January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018, the OLSE (the Office of Labor Standard Enforcement) may issue only warnings and notices to correct. Beginning January 1, 2019, the OLSE may issue administrative penalties of $500.00 per violation and $50.00 per day for each employee to whom the violation occurred.

Employers with San Francisco-based employees should prepare to be in compliance with the new ordinance by the end of 2017. Here are some recommended steps to get ready:

  • Identify designated lactation areas. 
  • Implement, or update, a written lactation accommodation policy. Include it in employee handbooks and distribute it to new hires and to employees who request or inquire about pregnancy or parental leave. 
  • Train managers and Human Resources staff on the new requirements.
  • Implement an internal process to maintain records of employee requests for lactation accommodations. 
  • Seek advice from counsel before determining that compliance would be an undue hardship. 

Handbook Language:

Lactation Accommodation Policy (for San Francisco schools – effective 1-1-2018)

<CHARTER SCHOOL> will make every effort to accommodate a request for a lactation accommodation. Employees will use their paid break times for purposes of lactation. If the need for additional time is required that will be unpaid time and should be so noted on the employee’s timesheet. 

<CHARTER SCHOOL> will provide an appropriate space for lactation purposes that is private, (not a toilet stall), free from intrusion, has electricity and that has reasonable access to a refrigerator. We will engage in the interactive process with the employee to determine a reasonable accommodation. 

The employee may submit a written or verbal request for accommodation to their immediate supervisor or directly to Human Resources. A response to the request will be responded to within five (5) days from the date of the request. Should <CHARTER SCHOOL> be unable to provide the accommodation it will provide the employee with a written response indicating the reason for the denial. 

Retaliation for making a lactation accommodation request is strictly forbidden. If the employee believes she has been retaliated against it should be reported immediately to Human Resources or the School Leader. Discrimination against and harassment of lactating employees in any form is unacceptable, a form of prohibited sex/gender discrimination, will not be tolerated at <CHARTER SCHOOL> and will be handled in accordance with <CHARTER SCHOOL>’s policy on discrimination and harassment.

Written Policy to give to all new hires and anyone requesting an accommodation
On school letterhead


Lactation Accommodation

<CHARTER SCHOOL> will make every effort to accommodate a request for a lactation accommodation. Employees will use their paid break times for purposes of lactation. If the need for additional time is required that will be unpaid time and should be so noted on the employee’s timesheet. 

<CHARTER SCHOOL> will provide an appropriate space for lactation purposes that is private, (not a toilet stall), free from intrusion, has electricity and that has reasonable access to a refrigerator. We will engage in the interactive process with the employee to determine a reasonable accommodation. 

The employee may submit a request written or verbal for accommodation to their immediate supervisor or directly to Human Resources. A response to the request will be responded to within five (5) days from the date of the request. Should <CHARTER SCHOOL> be unable to provide the accommodation it will provide the employee with a written response indicating the reason for the denial. 

Retaliation for making a lactation accommodation request is strictly forbidden. If the employee believes she has been retaliated against it should be reported immediately to Human Resources or the School Leader. Discrimination against and harassment of lactating employees in any form is unacceptable, a form of prohibited sex/gender discrimination, will not be tolerated at <CHARTER SCHOOL> and will be handled in accordance with <CHARTER SCHOOL>’s policy on discrimination and harassment.


I acknowledge I have received a copy of this Lactation Accommodation Policy on this date: 

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