New York State Adopts Expanded Protections for Nursing Employees in the Workplace

On December 9, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law an amendment to New York Labor Law Section 206-c that provides nursing employees with increased workplace protections. The amendment, which goes into effect on June 7, 2023, requires New York employers to provide lactation rooms that comply with certain specifications and adopt a written lactation accommodation policy.

Currently, New York law requires employers to provide nursing employees with unpaid break time to express breast milk or allow the use of paid break or meal time for such purposes for up to three years after the birth of a child. Under the State’s current guidance, employers are required to give employees at least 20 minutes at a time to pump breast milk and additional time if needed. Additionally, employers are presently required to provide a private room or alternative location for employees to express breast milk in close proximity to an employee’s work area.

In addition to the above protections, the amended law now provides that employees must be permitted to take breaks “each time such employee has reasonable need to express breast milk” for up to three years after the child’s birth. Further, the amended law requires that employers must designate a private lactation space that is:

  • In close proximity to the employee’s work area
  • Near clean running water
  • Well lit
  • Shielded from view
  • Free from intrusion from other persons in the workplace or the public

This space must also contain a chair, a working surface, and an electrical outlet. Notably, the space cannot be in a restroom or toilet stall. Expressing breast milk need not be the sole purpose for this space, but it must be prioritized for same and made available whenever an employee needs to use it for lactation purposes. While an employee is using the designated area, it cannot be used for any other purpose. If the workplace has access to refrigeration, employees must be allowed to use the refrigerator to store expressed breast milk.

Employers must provide notice to all employers once a room or location has been designated for use by nursing employees. If compliance with these requirements poses an undue hardship on an employer based on its size, financial resources, or the nature of its business, the employer is required to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other area where a nursing employee can express breast milk in privacy (other than a restroom or toilet stall).

As noted above, the amended law requires employers to adopt a written lactation accommodation policy. The amended law is similar to the lactation accommodations requirements that have been in effect in New York City since 2018. However, the new law differs in the respect that it seemingly requires employers to adopt a specific policy developed by the New York Department of Labor (“NYDOL”); the New York City law allows employers to draft their own policies consistent with the law’s requirements. Employers are required to distribute the written policy to all employees at the time of hiring and when returning to work from the birth of a child. The policy must also be distributed annually to all current employees.

Overall, employers should stay up-to-date with any updates regarding this new law from the NYDOL, especially with respect to the written policy requirements. New York employers also should prepare to comply with the new workplace protections, including deciding which room or space to designate for lactation purposes.

As the law continues to evolve on these matters, please note that this article is current as of date and time of publication and may not reflect subsequent developments. The content and interpretation of the issues addressed herein is subject to change. Cole Schotz P.C. disclaims any and all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this publication to the fullest extent permitted by law. This is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining legal, financial and tax advice. For further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your firm contact or to any of the attorneys listed in this publication.

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