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New Lactation Rooms and Policy Requirements for New York City Employers

New York City continues to lead the nation in enacting progressive laws to protect employees in the workplace. Recently, the New York City Council passed amendments to the New York City Human Rights Law, which applies to employers with four or more employees in New York City.  One of the new amendments creates requirements related to lactation rooms, and maintaining a written policy related to lactation-related accommodations. 

Lactation Rooms and Accommodation Policies

New York City has expanded on already existing requirements under New York State Labor to provide a lactation room to employees who express milk for up to three years following child birth. Beginning March 17, 2019, New York City employers with 4 or more employees are required to provide a lactation room, allowing mothers to express breast milk shielded from view and free from intrusion. The City has clarified that the room must include, at minimum, an electrical outlet, a chair, a surface to place a breast pump and other personal items, and nearby access to running water. Employers also must supply a refrigerator suitable for breast milk storage in reasonable proximity to the employee's work area. These amenities were encouraged under the New State Law, and are now required.

If the lactation room is also used for another purpose, it can only be used as a lactation room when it's being used to express milk. When it's in use as a lactation room, the employer must provide notice to other employees that the room is given preference as a lactation room.

 Another new requirement is that employers in New York City must create a written policy alerting employees about the existence of the lactation room, and the process for requesting lactation-related accommodations.

 The accommodations process policy must:

  1. Specify how an employee may submit a request for a lactation room;

  2. Require the employer to respond to a request for a lactation room within a reasonable amount of time not to exceed five business days;

  3. 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;

  4. State that the employer shall provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk, consistent with Section 206-c of the Labor Law; and

  5. State that if the request for a lactation room poses an undue hardship on the employer, the employer shall engage in a cooperative dialogue.

The New York City Human Rights Commission will be creating a sample policy, but it is a good idea for employers to consider how to best implement the policy in your office, and start drafting a policy before the March 17, 2019 deadline.