On May 9, 2018, the New York City Council introduced two new bills that would require employers to provide lactation spaces and implement a lactation accommodation policy at the workplace.

These proposed laws would expand upon the New York State Labor Law, which already provides employees with the right to pump breast milk at work and guarantees nursing mothers unpaid or paid break time or meal time to express breast milk in the workplace for up to three years after the birth of a child. According to guidelines published by the New York Commissioner of Labor, employers must make reasonable efforts to provide a private room or location in close proximity to the employee’s work area to express milk. The proposed New York City laws specify additional requirements for an employee’s lactation space and mandate the implementation of a policy concerning requests for lactation accommodations.

Lactation Spaces

New York City employers with 15 or more employees would be required, upon request by an employee, to provide the following accommodations to an employee desiring to express breast milk:

  • a lactation space in reasonable proximity to the employee’s work area; and
  • a refrigerator in reasonable proximity to the employee’s work area suitable for breast milk storage.

The proposed law defines “lactation space” as a sanitary place that is not a restroom that can be used to breastfeed or express milk shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers and the public. The lactation space must at a minimum include: an electrical outlet, a chair, a surface to place a breast pump and other personal items, and nearby access to running water.

If a space designated by an employer to serve a lactation space is also used for another purpose, the primary function of the space would need to be considered a lactation space for the duration of an employee’s need to express milk. Employers would need to notify other employees that the primary use of the space is for lactation, and that this purpose takes precedence of over other uses.
An employer may be exempt from the requirements of providing a lactation space if it can show that this would impose an undue hardship to the employer.

Lactation Accommodation Policy

Under the second proposed legislation, all New York City employers would be required to develop and implement a policy regarding lactation spaces to be distributed to all employees upon hiring.

The lactation policy must include the following: (1) a statement that employees have a right to request a lactation space, and (2) a process by which an employee may request a lactation space. The process should specify the following:

  • a method for an employee to submit a request for a lactation space;
  • require the employer to respond to a request for a lactation space within 5 business days;
  • state that, if the employer does not provide a lactation space to a requesting employee, the employer must explain the basis of the denial in writing; and
  • state that the employer will provide reasonable break time to express milk.

Employers would need to maintain a record of the initial written request or any updates to the initial request for a lactation space for a period of 3 years from the date of the request. The record should include the date of the request and a description of how the employer resolved the request.

Takeaway for Employers

As these bills have at this stage only been proposed, New York City employers do not yet need to implement these requirements. However, employers should ensure they have breastfeeding accommodation policies in place and should review their procedures for addressing lactation accommodation requests. We will monitor the bills as they move through the New York City Council and provide additional information as it becomes available.

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212-682-0020 | PutneyLaw.com.