UPDATE: The new laws have been enacted and will take effect on March 17, 2019.

The New York City Council recently passed two bills that would amend the NYC Human Rights Law to expand the requirements of employers with four or more employees to provide lactation space for breastfeeding employees.  The bills have been sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is expected to sign them, for consideration.  If enacted, they will take effect 120 days after signing.

The new bills would expand upon the already-existing requirements under the New York State Labor Law to provide reasonable unpaid break time (or permit employees to use paid break time) to express milk in the workplace for up to three years following the birth of a child, and to “make reasonable efforts” to provide a room or other location, other than a restroom, to express milk in private.

Lactation Room Requirements

The first bill, Int. No. 879-A, would require covered employers to provide employees needing to express breast milk with access to a lactation room, as well as to a refrigerator suitable for breast milk storage, “in reasonable proximity” to the employee’s work area.  A lactation room is defined under the bill 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.”

Employers would not be required to create a dedicated lactation room, but if the room designated for lactation is also used for other purposes: (i) the room must be used solely as a lactation room during times when an employee is using the room to express milk, and (ii) the employer must provide notice to other employees that the room is given preference for use as a lactation room.

The bill further provides that, should providing a lactation room as set forth above pose an undue hardship on an employer, the employer is nevertheless obligated to engage in a cooperative dialogue with employees to determine what, if any, alternate accommodation(s) may be available, and to provide a written final determination to employees at the conclusion of the cooperative dialogue process, identifying any accommodation(s) granted or denied.

Lactation Room Policy

The second bill, Int. No. 905-A, would require covered employers to develop and implement a written policy regarding the provision of a lactation room, to be distributed to all new employees upon hire.  The policy would be required to include a statement that employees have a right to request a lactation room, as well as identify a process by which employees could request a lactation room.  Such process would be required to:

  • 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, as discussed above.

The bill would further require the New York City Commission on Human Rights, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, to develop a model lactation room accommodation policy and request form for use by employers.

*          *          *

We will continue to report on further developments with regard to these bills.

Print:
Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Photo of Allan Bloom Allan Bloom

Allan S. Bloom is a nationally recognized trial lawyer and advisor who represents management in a broad range of employment and labor law matters. As a litigator, Allan has successfully defended a number of the world’s leading companies against claims for unpaid wages…

Allan S. Bloom is a nationally recognized trial lawyer and advisor who represents management in a broad range of employment and labor law matters. As a litigator, Allan has successfully defended a number of the world’s leading companies against claims for unpaid wages, employment discrimination, breach of contract and wrongful discharge, both at the trial and appellate court levels as well as in arbitration. He has secured complete defense verdicts for clients in front of juries, as well as injunctions to protect clients’ confidential information and assets.

As the leader of Proskauer’s Wage and Hour Practice Group, Allan has been a strategic partner to a number of Fortune 500 companies to help them avoid, minimize and manage exposure to wage and hour-related risk. Allan’s views on wage and hour issues have been featured in The New York TimesReutersBloomberg and Fortune, among other leading publications. His class-action defense work for clients has saved hundreds of millions of dollars in potential damages.

Allan is regularly called on to advise boards of directors and senior leadership on highly sensitive matters such as executive transitions, internal investigations and strategic workforce planning. He also has particular expertise in the financial services industry, where he has litigated and arbitrated cases, including at FINRA and its predecessors, for more than 20 years.
A prolific author and speaker, Allan was the Editor of the New York State Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Law Journal from 2012 to 2017. He has served as an author, editor and contributor to a number of leading treatises in the field of employment law, including ADR in Employment Law (ABA/Bloomberg BNA, Senior Editor), Employment Discrimination Law (ABA/Bloomberg BNA, Final Proof Editor), Cutting Edge Advances in Resolving Workplace Disputes (Cornell University/CPR, Editor), The Employment Law Review (Law Business Research, U.S. Chapter Author), and The Complete Compliance and Ethics Manual (SCCE, Chapter Author).

Allan is a member of the NYSBA’s House of Delegates, sits on the Executive Committee of the NYSBA’s Labor and Employment Law Section, and is a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. He has been recognized as a leading practitioner by Chambers since 2011.

Photo of Laura Fant Laura Fant

Laura Fant is a special employment law counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-administrative leader of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Practice Group. Her practice is dedicated to providing clients with practical solutions to common (and uncommon) employment concerns…

Laura Fant is a special employment law counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-administrative leader of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Practice Group. Her practice is dedicated to providing clients with practical solutions to common (and uncommon) employment concerns, with a focus on legal compliance, risk management and mitigation strategies, and workplace culture considerations.

Laura regularly counsels clients across numerous industries on a wide variety of employment matters involving recruitment and hiring, employee leave and reasonable accommodation issues, performance management, and termination of employment . She also advises on preparing, implementing and enforcing employment and separation agreements, employee handbooks and company policies, as well as provides training on topics including discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Laura is a frequent contributor to Proskauer’s Law and the Workplace blog and The Proskauer Brief podcast.