Baltimore City employers must provide lactation accommodations

By: Fiona Ong, Shawe Rosenthal, LLP

Starting on April 15, 2019, a new Baltimore City Ordinance requires employers in Baltimore City to provide lactation accommodations to breastfeeding employees. Employers must also develop a written lactation accommodations policy.

WHO IS COVERED

Employers of two or more full-time equivalent employees must comply with the new ordinance.

There are several exceptions to the employees covered by the new ordinance: volunteers, those employed by a parent/spouse/child, and domestic workers in a private residence.

TIME AND LOCATION

Under the new ordinance, employers must provide both a reasonable amount of break time and a location for employees to express breast milk.

If possible, the required break time must run concurrently with any paid rest or break time already required by law (such as for retail employees or minor employees) or already provided to the employee. Any additional break time necessary may be unpaid.

The specified location is subject to a number of strict requirements:

The ordinance provides that the lactation location may be used for other purposes as long as priority is given to the breastfeeding employee’s needs. Other employees using the location must be notified that the location’s primary function is its use as a “lactation location” and that this function takes precedence over all others.

If the employer’s workspace is inadequate to meet the location requirements set forth above and it is located in a multi-tenant building, the employer may share a lactation location with other tenants. This shared location must still meet the above-listed requirements. It must also be able to accommodate the number of employees wishing to use it at any given time.

HARDSHIP WAIVER OR VARIANCE

An employer may apply to the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission for a waiver or variance of any of the listed requirements that the employer can show would impose an undue hardship, meaning a significant expense or operational difficulty when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature or structure of the employer’s business.

The ordinance sets forth one such permitted variance, which would be the creation of a temporary lactation location, using screening or curtains with a latch or some closure mechanism to prevent intrusion during use. The temporary structure and the required items (e.g. table, chair, etc.) could not be moved during the period during which the employee needs to express breast milk. There must be signage designating the area as a lactation location, and notice should be provided to other employees of the existence and purpose of the temporary lactation location and that it should not be disturbed.

The Commission will develop regulations for this waiver or variance process.

REQUIRED WRITTEN POLICY

All covered employers must implement a written lactation accommodation policy that meets specific requirements:

This policy must be distributed to all employees upon hiring, and again if the policy is modified. In addition, it must be provided to any employee who requests or inquires about pregnancy or parental leave. If the employer has a handbook, the policy must be contained in the handbook.

RECORDKEEPING REQUIREMENTS

Employers must retain all requests for lactation accommodations for three years from the date of each request, including:

The records must be made available to the Commission upon reasonable notice. If the employer fails to keep the required records or does not permit the Commission access, the employer will be presumed to have violated the title.

VIOLATIONS

Employees may file complaints of alleged violations with the Commission. The Commission will investigate such complaints using the same process as for complaints of discrimination. The Commission’s conclusions are subject to judicial review.

An employer found to have violated this ordinance will be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of not more than $500 for each offense.

What Should Employers Do Now? Employers should develop the required written policy and distribute it to all employees. If you have a handbook, the policy should also be included there. Employers with employees currently breastfeeding must make arrangements to provide breaks and a lactation location in compliance with the ordinance. Those who do not have such employees at the current time may wish to consider what areas may serve as a compliant lactation location in the future.

If you have any questions about this information or would like to speak with a Shawe Rosenthal attorney, please visit our website at www.shawe.com. You may also email shawe@shawe.com or call 410-752-1040.

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