We’ve said it so many times: Mothers should not have to nurse or pump in bathrooms. It’s degrading and gross.

Apparently, lawmakers in California understand that because they have strengthened laws around workplace lactation rooms so that no woman will have to spend 2019 pumping in the bathroom.

Previous state laws regarding lactation accommodation requires employers to provide moms with a reasonable place to pump, but because the labor code only specified that a toilet stall was not a reasonable place, some employers decided that other parts of the bathroom would suffice since they were still technically complying with the law.

California lawmakers had to spell it out in Assembly Bill 1976, which went into effect January 1, 2019, directing employers to “make reasonable efforts to provide an employee with use of a room or other location, other than a bathroom, for these purposes.”

The change of wording from “other than a toilet stall” to “other than a bathroom” seems small, but it closes a big loophole that was allowing employers to skirt the state and federal laws around lactation accommodation (The Fair Labor Standards Act’s Break Time for Nursing Mothers section specifically used the language “other than a bathroom,” possibly to avoid this whole stall vs. bathroom problem).

Now, if an employer in California can demonstrate that the requirement to provide a lactation room that isn’t a bathroom “would impose an undue hardship when considered in relation to the size, nature, or structure of the employer’s business, an employer shall make reasonable efforts to provide an 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.”

In other words, there may be a few one-off circumstances where the bathroom truly is the only reasonable place for pumping, but it’s unlikely the state’s going to side with employers who are just claiming undue hardship unnecessarily. And, if an employer is found to have failed to provide employees with the proper lactation accommodations, they can be fined $100 per violation.

It truly seems insane that in this day and age employers are reluctant to accommodate pumping workers, but thanks to this law, it’s now going to be a lot harder to get away with it in California.

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