San Francisco Publishes “Best Practices” Checklist as New Lactation Ordinance Becomes Effective January 1, 2018

By Garrett C. Parks

Earlier this year, we reported that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation to assist working mothers by requiring employers to provide additional accommodations for lactation. On January 1, 2018, the Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance (the “Ordinance”) takes effect. The City of San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards and Department of Public Health (collectively, the “City”) has published sample forms and guidance for employers to consider when preparing such policies.

As a brief refresher, the Ordinance requires virtually all employers (there is no minimum employee threshold) to provide employees a lactation location that is (1) not a bathroom, (2) free of intrusion, (3) clean and safe, (4) available as needed and (5) that has a surface (e.g., a counter or table), electricity, and a chair. There must also be a sink and refrigeration nearby. The space provided may be the employee’s normal work area or a multipurpose room to the extent it meets these requirements. 

Because of ambiguity regarding the Ordinance’s key terms, the City also has published a “Best Practices and Legal Requirements Checklist” for employers to consider when developing lactation policies. To be clear, the information contained on the checklist goes beyond the legal requirements, and the City advocates that employers—to the extent possible—dedicate a permanent, private room or space for lactation, to include the following:

  • Internal lock, clock, adjustable temperature control, footstool, Wi-Fi, telephone, mirror, lockers, partition, hospital grade breast pump, tape and pen for labeling containers, amongst other things;

  • Reservation system to use the room;

  • External signage;

  • Regular janitorial servicing; and

  • Access to educational literature and resources.

The City also proposes several “best practices” for employers to consider when accommodating lactation breaks requested by employees. These include providing employees, upon request, with temporary reduced hours or modifications to job duties, job sharing, flex time, alternative work schedules, and/or telecommuting. If practicable and not otherwise prohibited, the City also encourages employers allowing caregivers to bring the child to the workplace for feedings.

While not expressly required by the Ordinance, these “best practices” shed light on how City regulators may interpret the Ordinance’s provisions when determining whether an employer is in compliance with the Ordinance. Please contact your local Polsinelli employment lawyer if you have questions about this Ordinance or would like us to review your company’s policy and approach to compliance with this new law.