Governor Signs Legislation Designed to Expand Protections for Working Mothers
In December 2022, Governor Hochul signed a bill into law designed to expand protections for working mothers who breastfeed. The law applies to all public and private employers in New York.
The law requires employers to provide a written policy for breastfeeding in the workplace. Upon hire, annually, and when employees return to work after the birth of a child, employers must provide employees with a written policy regarding nursing employees’ rights to express breast milk in the workplace, and the procedures for requesting a room or location to express breast milk. As of the date of drafting this article, the New York State Department of Labor’s Commissioner’s written policy is not yet available.
Generally, employees have the right to take breaks when they have a “reasonable need to express breast milk” for up to three years after giving birth. Labor Law § 206-c. Employees must give their employer advance notice of their request for a room or location to express breast milk. Employers must respond to an employee’s request for a room or other location for use to express breast milk within five business days.
Privacy and Proximity
The law expands accommodations for breastfeeding in the workplace. Employers must continue to make reasonable efforts to provide pumping spaces. Employers are directed to provide a private area for employees to express breast milk. The location should be convenient, and in close proximity to the employees’ work area. There is a narrow exception if providing a room imposes an undue burden on the employer.
The designated area must be well lit, shielded from view, and free from intrusion from other individuals. The area must have a chair, a working surface, access to clean running water, and access to electricity (if the workplace has electricity). The designated area cannot be a restroom or toilet stall. Although the area can serve other purposes, the location must be available when an employee needs to use it to express breast milk. During the time when an employee is using the area to express breast milk, the area cannot be used for another purpose or function. If the workplace has a refrigerator, then the employee must have access to the refrigerator to store expressed milk. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against or retaliating against employees who choose to exercise their rights under the statute. The law will take effect on June 7, 2023.
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