Starting March 18, 2019, all New York City employers with four or more employees must comply with new laws requiring employers to provide lactation rooms to breastfeeding employees, as well as develop a lactation policy and processes for employees to request accommodations for nursing.
Employers must provide breastfeeding employees with access to a lactation room
Specifically, the new laws require that employers provide employees who need to express breast milk during the workday with:
- A lactation room which is defined as “a sanitary place, other than a restroom, that can be used to express breast milk shielded from view and free from intrusion and that includes at minimum an electrical outlet, a chair, a surface on which to place a breast pump and other personal items, and nearby access to running water” and
- A refrigerator suitable for breast milk storage in “reasonable proximity” to the employee’s work area.
Employers can designate an existing room for lactation purposes provided that it meets the above criteria. However, if the designated lactation room can be used for multiple purposes, the employer must give notice to employees that preference is given to employees who wish to use that room for lactation purposes and that such room must be used solely as a lactation room during times when an employee is using the room to express breast milk.
If providing a lactation room would create an “undue hardship” for an employer, the employer must still engage in a cooperative dialogue with the breastfeeding employee. This dialogue should seek to determine what alternative accommodations, if any, may be available. The employer must then provide a written final determination to the employee identifying any accommodation(s) that were granted or denied.
Employers must update their written policies
Employers must also implement a written lactation room policy and provide a copy to all new hires. This policy must include a statement that employees have a right to request a lactation room and identify the process for doing so. Such policy must:
- specify the means by which an employee may submit a request for a lactation room;
- require that the employer respond to a request for a lactation room within a reasonable amount of time not to exceed five business days;
- provide a procedure to follow when two or more individuals need to use the lactation room at the same time, including contact information for any follow-up required;
- state that the employer shall provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk pursuant to Section 206-c of the New York State Labor Law; and
- state that if the request for a lactation room poses an undue hardship on the employer, the employer shall engage in a cooperative dialogue with the employee.
The New York City Commission on Human Rights and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will develop a model lactation room accommodation policy and request form for use by employers which will be available online.
Employers should review their existing policies and workspaces to ensure that they are compliant with the process requirements of these new laws.
For further information please contact Danielle Comanducci.