New York Requires Employers to Provide Accommodations for Lactating Employees

On Nov. 17, 2018, enacted Int. No. 879 and Int. No. 905 that amend the New York City Admin Code to require employers with 15 or more employees to provide a “lactation space” for breastfeeding employees, and to require employers to implement a lactation accommodation policy and process for employees that are nursing. The new requirements will take effect March 18, 2019 (120 days after it was enacted).

Int. No. 879 requires employers to provide a “lactation space” for employees to be used to breastfeed or express milk.

A “lactation space” means 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. It must include 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. Employer must also provide, upon employee request, a lactation space that is in reasonable proximity to the employee’s work area for employees, and a refrigerator in reasonable proximity to the employee’s work areas suitable for breastmilk storage. Employers don’t have to build an entirely new room devoted to lactation breaks, but they must provide a space that is reserved only for lactation during the time an employee is using it for that purpose. When that space is being used as a lactation space, the employer shall provide notice to other employees that the primary use of such space is to be a lactation space, which takes precedence over other uses.

If providing a lactation room poses an “undue hardship” for an employer (that is, significant expense or operational difficulty), the employer may be found exempt from the requirements.

Int. No. 905 adds a requirement for employers to establish policies describing lactation accommodations, the process by which an employee can request such accommodations, to be distributed to all new employees. The bill does not require that the policy be distributed to current employees.

The employer must develop and implement a lactation policy that 1) includes a statement that employees have a right to request a lactation space, and 2) identify a process by which an employee may request a lactation space.

An employer must also develop a lactation space request form. This form must 1) specify the means by which an employee may submit a request for a lactation room; 2) require that the employer respond to a request for a lactation space within five business days; 3) state that, if in response to a request for a lactation space, the employer does not provide a lactation space, the employer must provide the employee with a written response that identifies the basis upon which the employer has denied the request; and 4) state that the employer shall provide reasonable break time to express breast milk. The law also requires that a model lactation policy be developed by the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene that includes a model lactation space request form.

While we wait for the model lactation room accommodation policy and request form, all applicable NYC employers must make sure that they have a “lactation room,” and develop a policy and procedure in compliance with these new code requirements.

Int. No. 879-A »
Int. No. 905-A »