When To-wen Tseng returned to work after her maternity leave, her employer didn’t provide her a place to pump breast milk, so she had to use the restroom. When she tried to wash her pumping accessories in the kitchen, her co-workers told her “don’t wash your dirty panties here.” She felt upset and demoralized. Her milk supply decreased dramatically. Eventually she left her job.
Ms. Tseng’s experience isn’t unique. Nationally, too many workplaces fail to provide clean, private places for nursing parents to express milk, causing them to stop breastfeeding prematurely. And each year, we receive dozens of calls on our Work and Family Helpline from new moms in California who are denied the time and space to pump, harassed by their co-workers, and forced off the job when they stand up for themselves. Existing law requires employers to provide new parents a time and space to pump at work, but too few employees know their rights (and too few employers know their obligations).
Senate Bill 937 would change that. It would require employers to provide workers a written policy (at hire and before parental leave) that informs them of when and how they can request lactation accommodations. By requiring employers to educate all their employees—not just those who are pregnant—the bill aims to normalize lactation and decrease stigma. SB 937 would also require employers to provide workers a lactation room that’s safe, clean, and free of toxic materials, as well as a place to sit with nearby access to electricity, running water, and a refrigerator.
SB 937 isn’t just good news for new moms. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma, ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, and obesity. And workplace policies that support lactation lower employer healthcare costs, reduce employee turnover and absenteeism, improve productivity, and boost morale.
So, this Mother’s Day, support the moms in your life by asking your state senator to support SB 937. After all, no mom should be forced to choose between her child’s health and her family’s financial security.