The Lactation Space, according to the law:
1. Cannot be a bathroom
The employee needing a lactation space may opt out of the space or prefer a bathroom, but the space designated and offered by the employer cannot be a bathroom.
2. Must be completely private
No one can see inside the space
No one is able to enter while in use for breastfeeding/lactation purposes
3. Does not need to be permanently designated as a lactation room
If no employees are breastfeeding/need a lactation room, no designated space is required
Space must be designated for priority use as a lactation room over other uses the room may provide if one or more employees are breastfeeding/need a lactation room
4. Must be available every time the lactating employee needs it
The space may be used for other purposes outside of as a designated, private lactation space, but the space must be available and prioritized for the lactating employee the instant it is needed or scheduled.
5. May accommodate more than one lactating employee at a time, but dividers must be provided for complete privacy
“If more than one breastfeeding employee will need the space, mothers can develop a room-use schedule or the employer can install privacy curtains or dividers so that the room can be used by more than one person at a time. The dividers must ensure that each station is completely private.”
- United States Breastfeeding Committee (http://www.usbreastfeeding.org) Always visit the legal requirements on your own! Official sites have the best language for the laws: http://www.usbreastfeeding.org
The Lactation Space, with best practice recommendations:
1. Comfortable Seating and Dignified Environment
The employee needing a lactation space will need to sit for extended periods of time. Ensure that seating is comfortable for their physical health and stamina.
Work toward creating a welcoming environment. If a storage closet is the only space, for example, how can you rearrange and/or transform it to feel welcoming in a way that dignifies the human being? See it through the eyes of a welcome space that speaks to how you prioritize and support your employee.
2. Accessible and Proximal Location
Be sure to include travel time to and from the space in the context of the employee’s main work or rehearsal space.
The company’s investment and resources will be better supported - as well as the employee’s efficiency and support - if the location is highly accessible and as near as possible to their main work or rehearsal space.
3. Protect and Communicate Boundaries for Shared Spaces
If the lactation space has a shared function, be sure to communicate with the breastfeeding/pumping employee first on their privacy preferences, ensure that they have access to a lock and/or adequate closure.
Communicate with any other persons who may be occupying or needing that space that when in use for lactation purposes, they must give full privacy and priority to the employee needing the space for lactation.
Ensure that all employees know they may not enter, coerce entry or speedy access, or behave in hostility to the lactating employee engaging in their legal right to a lactation space. Encourage compassion and respect.
Consider signage for the space indicating that it is in use. Get approval from the employee needing the lactation space before use to ensure the sign respects their need for privacy in its use of language.
4. Outlets, Amenities, and Flat Surfaces
Many pumping devices require outlets to charge and/or function.
Provide a clear, flat surface near the outlet. It allows for the employee to set the pumping device on the table and other items as necessary. This surface should be at minimum 2’x2’.
A miniature fridge in the lactation space can provide immediate storage for breast milk in the space may provide the employee with immediate storage opportunity, which can be vital to prevent spills, travel time of temperature-sensitive milk, and provide great asset to taking it home each day. A miniature fridge unit can cost as low as $29.97 and is compact for easy storage and keep. This fridge should have a sign that discourages other employees from opening or unplugging at any time.
5. Employee Agency and Preference of Use
Communication with the employee needing the lactation space is key to understanding their individual needs, boundaries, and development of the space. Even with the above items ready for their use, be sure to communicate before and throughout their use of the space. Communicate their preferences are a priority and provide a direct point of contact responsible for the room so they know who to trust if an adjustment needs to be made.
Some rehearsal studios have lactation rooms available for use. Be sure to inquire on behalf of the employee or performer who may need the space during their time in the rehearsal studio.
Some employees prefer to stay in the rehearsal or office space where they feel comfortable as a preferred option. Allow for the employee to have agency in choosing to remain in the work space or rehearsal studio for the pumping process.
Articulate to the stage manager and producers that the employee needing lactation breaks should be allowed additional time to pump outside of union or work breaks. A possible option is to add it on as an extension of the union or work break for that individual. Denying an employee their designated lactation breaks could potentially be breaking the law, depending on employment status. For best practice, coordinate intentional activities post-union break that allow for productivity of the room but that the employee needing a lactation break from the activity does not experience lack of rehearsal or project opportunity if taking their extended break to use their lactation time.
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