Watch our free The Current State of Federal Lactation Laws webinar on-demand!

Lactation in The Workplace Ordinance

In 2017, the city of San Francisco passed a Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance. This ordinance is more detailed and covers for items than both the Federal and California state laws on lactation in the workplace. It defines minimum standards for lactation accommodation spaces and lactation accommodation best practices including technical specifications of a lactation room. The ordinance came into effect January 2018 and since then we’ve received many questions from employers about how this ordinance affects them and what they need to do to be in compliance. Enforcement of fines will officially begin January 2019. Let’s take a look what is required in the ordinance and how it differs from the state and federal laws.

Who Does This Apply To

This local law gives further protections to the mother, and takes precedence over the state and federal laws. The San Francisco Lactation Ordinance applies to any person employed within the geographic boundaries of San Francisco by an employer, including part-time employees. This is stricter than the federal law, which only applies to non-exempt employees and companies with greater than 50 employees. The California law includes any employer with more than one employee.

Pumping Breaks and Duration of Breastfeeding

The ordinance refers to the federal and California state law regarding break times and how long an employer needs to provide lactation accommodations for a mother. Both federal and state law say a mother can use her break times to pump, and may take additional unpaid breaks if not used concurrently with paid breaks. The state of California further designates that the time to travel to the mother’s room is not included in the break time. The federal law requires breaks up to one year after the baby's birth, however California law does not set an upper limit to the time a mother needs breaks to pump milk for her baby. This means she could pump for several years if she chooses to.

The Mother’s Room

While the federal and California state law require a room that is not the bathroom for a mother to pump in, the SF ordinance goes further in defining what the accommodations should include. 

  • The room shall be at least 50 square feet, and be located no more than 500 feet or within two adjacent floors from the farthest employee workspace that it is designated to serve.

  • Provide a room that is safe, clean, and free of toxic or hazardous materials.

  • The room shall contain a surface to place a breast pump, a place for other personal items, and a place to sit.

  • Electricity and outlets for a fridge and each pumping station is required

  • Must have a refrigerator for milk storage and access to a sink with hot and cold running water in close proximity to the employee's work area.

  • The door must lock from the inside.

Many companies also provide a hospital-grade breast pump in their lactation room as they realize that it benefits both the employer and employee. Hospital-grade pumps are meant for multiple users. The pumping kit that the parent uses is a personal item and separate from the pumping mechanism. The pump has barriers to prevent contamination. Parents do not need to worry about contamination from others when using a hospital-grade pump. A pump is not required, but is highly recommended. One benefit is that it can cut the time a parent needs to pump in half, allowing them to have more flexibility with their time.

Since this ordinance came into effect, many companies have inquired on how they can provide a hospital grade pump for their employees. Healthy Horizons can provide hospital grade breast pumps for companies. From our Healthy Horizons website, you can purchase or rent the Medela or Ameda Multi-User pump. We also have other pumps available upon request. Healthy Horizons is a Durable Medical Equipment Provider (DME) and can set up the room for you in-person or by mail!

Construction and Improvement Projects

  • There is tenant improvement project for the interior of the building.

  • The gross square footage of the interior space designated for Employee only use (i.e., space not designated for public use) and included in the project is at least 15,000 square feet.

  • The estimated cost of the project stated in the building application is over $1,000,000.

  • The requirement for a Lactation Room to have a sink, does not apply where the project does not involve plumbing work.

  • The number of rooms required for larger projects are as follows:

50-150 employees = 1 mother's room
151-300 employees = 2 mother's rooms
301-500 employees = 3 mother's rooms
501-1,000 employees = 4 mother's rooms
1,001-2,000 employees = 8 mother's rooms
2,001-4,000 employees = 11 mother's rooms*

*For each additional 900 employees beyond 4,000 add one additional mother's room

Additional Lactation Requirements

The ordinance also has additional rules that are not part of the federal law.

  • Employers must include a Lactation Accommodation Policy in the employee handbook.

  • Companies need to keep records of employee requests for lactation accommodations for three years.

  • Rooms that are used for other uses than a lactation room need to be designated as a Lactation Location with other employees notified that lactation use takes priority. We recommend having a way to indicate when the room is being used by a parent, such as putting out a sign or blocking it off on a company calendar. The room also should ensure privacy, such as having it be able to lock from the inside.

How Can We Help

  • We can design and set up your company’s lactation room and review your company’s lactation policy.

  • Providing breast pumps in your lactation rooms is a great addition to the program, you can purchase or rent your hospital-grade breast pumps from Healthy Horizons online or contact us directly!

  • Healthy Horizons supports locations across the United States, no matter the city we can help you advocate and support working parents!