New York State is expanding its lactation accommodation requirements, with changes taking effect on June 7, 2023. Employers of all sizes will still be required to allow employees to take lactation breaks for up to three years after childbirth (as has been the case for several years). Here are the changes.
1. Designating Lactation Space
Employers must designate a space employees can use to express breastmilk at work. The space must be well-lit, private, and near the employee’s work area. In addition, the designated lactation space must have:
- A chair
- A working surface
- Access to clean running water nearby
- An electrical outlet if the workplace has electricity
The space can’t be a bathroom or toilet stall (this is the same under federal law). If the lactation space isn’t designated solely for lactation purposes, the employer is required to ensure that it’s available when an employee needs it and should make other employees aware that those who are lactating have priority access to the space.
Technically, the requirement to designate a lactation space is only triggered when an employee asks for it, but we recommend proactively identifying a space if you don’t already have one.
2. Lactation Accommodation Notice
The new law adds two notice requirements. First, employers are required to adopt a policy and distribute it to employees upon hire, once a year, and when returning to work after the birth of a child. The policy must inform employees of their rights under the lactation accommodations law, tell employees how to request space at work to take lactation breaks, and promise that the employer will respond to lactation space requests within five business days. The law directs the New York Department of Labor to create a template policy.
Second, when an employer designates a space for lactation, it must inform all employees of the designation as soon as possible. You can put this in your policy to comply with this requirement – another incentive to designate a space proactively.
3. Undue Hardship Exception
Employers don’t have to designate and prioritize a lactation space that meets the requirements outlined above if doing so would cause an undue hardship by causing significant difficulty or expense. Even if an employer cannot provide everything required without undue hardship, it should comply with the law to the extent that it can.
Regardless of undue hardship, all employers must still:
- Provide lactation breaks to employees
- Make reasonable efforts to provide a private, non-bathroom space near the employee’s work area to express breast milk
Also note that if you have 50 or more employees, you still have to comply with the requirements for lactation accommodations under federal law, without exception.
4. Additional Protections
The changes to the law clarify that:
- Employees are entitled to take a lactation break each time they need to express breastmilk
- Employers must allow employees to store breastmilk in refrigerators in the workplace, if any
- Employees are protected from all forms of discrimination and retaliation for exercising their lactation accommodation rights
To ensure compliance with these changes to the law, employers should make sure they designate a lactation space and adopt and distribute a compliant lactation accommodations policy.
Worried About Complying with the New Lactation Accommodation Requirements?
It can be overwhelming to try and ensure compliance with ever-changing regulations, especially if you don’t have a full-time HR staff. That’s where GTM can help. Whether you just need occasional HR assistance or more consistent guidance, our HR consultants can provide on-site expertise to help build compliance, streamline HR processes, and develop HR best practices. Fill out the brief form below to learn more.