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.
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:
- Provide adequate time to pump breast milk during the day;
- Provide a lactation room, as required under the law; and
- 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.
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.
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.
Model Forms and Policies:
- Model Lactation Accommodation Request Form
- Model Lactation Policies: lactation room; multipurpose room; no room.
NYC Lactation Local Laws:
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