Legislation Requires Employers to Provide Space with Specific Amenities to Safely Express Breast Milk
Governor Kathy Hochul announced a new law requiring all employers to provide expanded accommodations for breast milk expression became effective today. The legislation, which was signed by Governor Hochul last December, also requires employers to adopt a policy developed by the New York State Department of Labor establishing employee rights when expressing breast milk in the workplace. These new requirements ensure that all workers have the same safe, clean accommodations across the state.
"Our workplaces must offer safe, hygienic and convenient places for nursing employees to pump privately and with dignity," Governor Hochul said. "By requiring employers to provide quality accommodations, this legislation will help enhance the safety for nursing employees and expand healthcare protections and accommodations for breastfeeding."
This law requires all employers in New York State to provide convenient, private pumping spaces in the workplace that include seating, a table or flat surface, an electrical outlet and nearby access to running water. Employers must educate employees on their rights to express breast milk in the workplace by providing all employees with the new policy. This enhanced policy ensures all employers understand their responsibilities, and all workers know their rights regarding breast milk expression in the workplace. This guidance is the minimum standard by which all employers must comply. Employers are encouraged to include additional accommodations tailored to their workplace and the needs of their employees.
New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, "It is vital that we protect and support working parents while on the job. Providing a safe and inclusive environment that accommodates the needs of nursing employees is not just a legal requirement, but a fundamental aspect of fostering a healthy and equitable workforce. This new policy creates an environment that respects the rights and well-being of all workers, promotes employee retention, and fosters a more inclusive and productive New York State workforce."
The New York State Department of Labor held a press conference at the UR Medicine Orthopedics and Physical Performance Center at Marketplace Mall, today at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the details of the policy in conjunction with the New York State Department of Health. The University of Rochester has designed its new facility to have several lactation rooms that exceed the new requirements.
New York State Acting Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, "As a pediatrician, I know firsthand the profound impact breastfeeding can have on health outcomes, as well as the barriers to workplace breastfeeding that parents face. I commend Governor Hochul's commitment to expanding workplace protections for employees who are nursing through programs like this, which break down barriers for breastfeeding parents, expand community-based partnerships to support policies and systems that promote breastfeeding, and build inclusive environments that support breastfeeding employees."
University of Rochester President Sarah Mangelsdorf said, “We thank Governor Hochul, the New York State Department of Labor, and the New York State Department of Health for leading the way and providing resources for employers like the University of Rochester to provide safe, clean, and friendly spaces for employees who may be breastfeeding or lactating.”
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said, "Moms deserve support when returning to the workplace after giving birth. In Monroe County, we have made significant policy changes over the past year and built new lactation rooms at 11 of our facilities. I'm proud the county is being recognized as a Breastfeeding-Friendly workplace. Thank you to the New York State Department of Health and University of Rochester for providing the resources we needed to make this happen. Thank you, Governor Hochul, for taking action to provide a more positive and supportive work environment for moms across New York State."
The New York Statewide Breastfeeding Coalition Policy Committee Director Theresa Landau said, "The Coalition applauds New York State for amending New York Labor Law to expand, clarify, and better support nursing employees at work. For nursing employees to meet current breastfeeding recommendations and their own breastfeeding goals, it's essential they are aware and assured that they will have the time and private space to regularly express breastmilk in the workplace. This amended law and required policy will help achieve that goal."
Lactation Room Requirements
Under the new law, all employers must provide a private room or alternative location, other than a bathroom, for breast milk expression.
At a minimum, the room or other location must:
- Be close to an employee's work area
- Provide good natural or artificial light
- Be private - both shielded from view and free from intrusion
- Have accessible, clean running water nearby
- Have an electrical outlet (if the workplace is supplied with electricity)
- Include a chair
- Provide a desk, small table, desk, counter, or other flat surface.
There does not need to be a separate space for every nursing employee. An employer may dedicate a single room or other location for breast milk expression. Should there be more than one employee at a time needing access to a lactation room, an employer may dedicate a centralized location to be used by all employees.
Requesting to Express Breast Milk at Work
The new law requires employers to provide a written policy to employees about the rights they have under the law regarding expressing breast milk in the workplace. Employers must provide the policy to each employee when they are hired, once each year thereafter, and again to employees who are returning to work following the birth of a child.
Employees wishing to request a location to express breast milk in the workplace should do so by submitting a written request to their direct supervisor or individual designated by their employer for processing requests. Employers must respond to this request for a room or other location to express breast milk in writing within five (5) days.
Using Break Time for Breast Milk Expression
Under current law, all employers must permit employees to use reasonable unpaid break time to express breast milk in the workplace. This time must be provided for up to three years following childbirth. Breaks must be provided at least every three hours if requested by the employee and must be at least 20 minutes. Employees may use their paid break time or mealtime if they would like, but they are not required to. Employers are prohibited by law from discriminating or retaliating against an employee who chooses to express breast milk in the workplace.
Visit the NYSDOL website for more information including the new policy, frequently asked questions and employer/employee fact sheets.