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Compliance Snapshot:

New York City Local Law 185 and Local Law 186 impose lactation accommodation obligations on certain employers. In order for employers to comply with New York City (NYC) lactation accommodation laws, employers must:

  • Develop and implement a lactation accommodation policy (or customize and implement one of the NYC model policies);
  • Distribute the lactation policies to employees upon hire;
  • Respond to any employee requests for lactation accommodation within 5 days, or as prescribed in the employer’s policy; and
  • Provide employees with a lactation room and adequate time to pump breast milk, or if doing so would cause the employer undue hardship, engage in cooperative dialogue with the employee to determine available alternative accommodations.

FAQs:

Which employers does the law apply to?

All NYC employers with four or more employees must provide lactation accommodation at any NYC-based work location. Employees who work in NYC for a covered employer have rights under the law.

What are the employer obligations?

Employers have three primary obligations under the law:

  1. Provide adequate time to pump breast milk during the day;
  2. Provide a lactation room, as required under the law; and
  3. Implement a lactation room policy and distribute the policy to employees upon hire.

Adequate Time to Express Breast Milk

Employers must allow employees adequate time during already-existing rest or meal breaks to pump breast milk. Employers must also extend existing breaks or provide additional breaks for employees to meet their needs. If extending or providing additional breaks puts an “undue hardship” on the employer, then the employer must engage in “cooperative dialogue” to identify alternative accommodations.

Lactation Room

Employers must provide a lactation room and refrigerator for breast milk storage in reasonable proximity to the employee’s work area. The “lactation room” must be sanitary place, other than a restroom, that can be used to pump breast milk and is shielded from view, free from intrusion, and includes an electrical outlet, chair, a surface to place the breast pump, and nearby access to running water.

If providing a lactation room places an “undue hardship” on the employer, the employer is required to engage in “cooperative dialogue” with the employee to identify alternative accommodations. Alternative accommodations may include identifying a shared space that may be used for lactation, putting up privacy screens in a shared space to create privacy, ensuring employees can pump at their workspace or purchasing a mini refrigerator or cooling devices the employee can use for breast milk storage.

Lactation Room Policy

Employers must develop and implement lactation room policy, which must include certain provisions. The policy must be distributed to employees upon hire.

The policy must include:

  • A statement that informs employees of their right to request a lactation room and the process by which they can make the request (NYC Commission on Human Rights has drafted a Model Lactation Accommodation Request Form);
  • A requirement that the employer respond to a lactation room request within a reasonable time, not to exceed 5 days;
  • A procedure to follow when two or more employees need to use the lactation room at the same time;
  • A statement that employer will provide a reasonable break time for employees to pump breast milk; and
  • A statement that, if the lactation room imposes an undue hardship on the employer, the employer will engage in cooperative dialogue with the employee to identify alternative accommodations.

Sample Policies:

The New York City Commission on Human Rights has created the following model policies that employers can customize and adopt:

  • Policy for workplaces with dedicated lactation room(s);
  • Policy for workplaces with multi-purpose place (other than a restroom) that may be used as a lactation room; and
  • Policy for workplaces with no available space for a lactation room.

What if lactation accommodations place an undue hardship on the employer?

If providing lactation accommodations puts an “undue hardship” on the employer, the employer must engage in “cooperative dialogue” with the employee to determine what alternative accommodations may be available to meet the employee’s needs. It is the employer’s burden to show undue hardship, which must be more than mere inconvenience.

What are the penalties for not having a lactation accommodation policy?

Employers who fail to provide lactation accommodations will be in violation of the law, unless they show undue hardship and that they engaged in cooperative dialogue. If employers are found in violation, they may be required to pay civil penalties, damages to affected employees, change policies, train staff, or post a notice of rights.

Employer Resources:

NYC Commission on Human Rights Lactation Accommodation FAQs

Model Forms and Policies:

NYC Lactation Local Laws:

The information and materials on this blog are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to constitute legal or tax advice. Information provided in this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments and may vary by jurisdiction. The content on this blog is for general informational purposes only and does not apply to any particular facts or circumstances. The use of this blog does not in any way establish an attorney-client relationship, nor should any such relationship be implied, and the contents do not constitute legal or tax advice. If you require legal or tax advice, please consult with a licensed attorney or tax professional in your jurisdiction. The contributing authors expressly disclaim all liability to any persons or entities with respect to any action or inaction based on the contents of this blog.

Emerald Law– Emerald is a Client Compliance Consultant for Sequoia, where she works with our clients to optimize and streamline benefits compliance. In her free time, Emerald enjoys stand-up comedy, live music and writing non-fiction.