Question: Are there any new employment laws that will require me to revise my Employee Handbook in 2020?

Answer: Yes.

One of these new laws is Senate Bill (SB) 142, which expands lactation accommodation requirements for employees who wish to express breast milk during the work day.   This new law applies to all employers. There are two major implications for California employers. First, all employers are required to develop and implement a lactation accommodation policy.  Second, employees are permitted to take a “reasonable amount” of break time to express milk.  Employers who have existing lactation accommodation policies in their employee handbooks will need to revise them, and employers who do not have a lactation accommodation policy will need to develop and implement one.

SB 142 requires the employer to provide a lactation room close to the employee’s work area, shielded from view and free from intrusion, safe, clean, and free of toxic or hazardous materials.  The lactation room cannot be a bathroom. The lactation room must contain seating, a surface to place a breast pump and other personal items, and access to electricity or alternative power devices.  The employer must provide access to a sink with running water and a refrigerator or other cooling device suitable for the employee to store breast milk close to the employee’s workspace.

Where a multipurpose room is used for lactation, among other uses, the use of the room for lactation shall take precedence over the other uses, but only for the time it is in use for lactation purposes. Employers may designate a lactation location that is temporary due to operational, financial, or space limitations.  Employers in a multitenant building or multiemployer worksite may comply with the law by providing a space shared among multiple employers within the building or worksite if the employer cannot provide a lactation location within the employer’s own workspace.

The employer’s lactation accommodation policy must contain the following:

  • A statement about an employee’s right to request lactation accommodation.
  • The process by which the employee makes the request.
  • An employer’s obligation to respond to the request.
  • A statement about an employee’s right to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner for any violation of the lactation accommodation law.

There are special provisions for agricultural employers.  Additionally, employers with fewer than 50 employees may apply for an exemption from one or more of the requirements if it can demonstrate that a requirement would impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business. However, even if an exemption is granted the employer must still 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 milk in private.

The penalties for non-compliance are significant. Denial of reasonable break time or failure to provide adequate space to express milk will now be deemed a failure to provide a rest period in accordance with state law. The Labor Commissioner may assess civil penalties.

The text of this new law is available on the Legislature’s website at  Be sure to update your employee handbook with this important new policy and comply with the lactation accommodation requirements.