New York Governor Kathy Hochul recently signed a law that expands breastfeeding accommodations, bringing the standards for private employers in line with those for public employers in the state. The law, signed on December 9, 2022, requires private employers to “designate a room or other location” that is not a “restroom or toilet stall” for employees to “express breast milk.” The law takes effect on June 7, 2023.
The law, S.4844-B/A.1236-A, requires the New York State Department of Labor to develop a model policy regarding workplace lactation rights and that employers adopt such a policy. Employers will be required to provide the written policy to each employee upon hire, annually thereafter, and to employees returning to work following the birth of a child. The law prohibits employers from discharging, threatening, penalizing, or discriminating against in “any other manner” employees who seek to exercise their rights under the law.
Employer lactation rooms or spaces must meet certain specifications. Specifically, the room must be:
- “in close proximity to the work area”;
- “well lit”;
- “shielded from view”; and
- “free from intrusion from other persons in the workplace or the public.”
Additionally, the room must be supplied with:
- “a chair”;
- “a working surface”;
- “nearby access to clean running water”;
- “an electrical outlet,” if the workplace has electricity; and
- “refrigeration for the purposes of storing the expressed milk,” if there is access to refrigeration in the workplace.
If the lactation room provided by employers is not solely dedicated for the purpose of allowing employees to express milk, the room must “be made available to such an employee when needed and shall not be used for any other purpose or function while in use by such employee.”
The law does provide a carve out for employers where compliance would be “impracticable because it would impose an undue hardship on the employer by causing significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.” Such employers are still required to “make reasonable efforts” to “provide a room or other location, other than a restroom or toilet stall, that is in close proximity to the work area” for employees to express breast milk.
Employers across the Empire State may want to review their employee breastfeeding policies and the spaces, if any, they provide for employees who need to express breast milk, in light of the requirements in the new law. The statewide law comes after New York City passed legislation in 2019 that imposed similar requirements, requiring employers with four or more employees to provide lactation room accommodations and requiring employers to implement written lactation accommodation policies.
Ogletree Deakins’ New York office will continue to monitor developments with to respect breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace and will post updates on the New York and Employment Law blogs as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.