The New York State Legislature passed S4844-B (the “Act”) on May 3, 2022, which would expand the rights of employed nurses to express breast milk in the workplace.
Under current New York law, employers must provide employees with reasonable break times and make reasonable efforts to provide space for employees to express breast milk. Like its New York counterpart, reported on here, S4844-B would clarify the scope of covered employers’ obligations by imposing specific requirements for the room or location that employers designate for employees to use when expressing breast milk. The Act will also require employers to distribute a written policy to employees.
If signed by Governor Kathy Hochul, the law will take effect 180 days later.
Lactation Room Requirements Explained
The law would require all employers in New York State to designate a room or location, other than a bathroom or lavatory stall, for use by an employee to express breast milk at the location. of work. Essentially, the law codifies the long tradition of the New York State Department of Labor Guidelines and FAQsby requiring that the room or place be:
- in the immediate vicinity (within walking distance in order to “not significantly extend the break time”) of the work area,
- well lighted,
- out of sight, and
- safe from the intrusion of others.
In addition, this room or location must also, at a minimum, contain (i) a chair, (ii) a surface on which the employee can place a breast pump and other personal items, (iii) access to proximity to clean running water, and (iv) an electrical outlet. If there is access to refrigeration in the workplace, employers must allow it to be used for the storage of expressed milk. However, employers are not required to provide a separate refrigerator for expressed milk, nor is it necessary for there to be a refrigerator in the lactation room.
It is not necessary that the room or place be designated solely for lactation purposes. If a designated room or location is used for both breastfeeding and other purposes (for example, as a meeting room), employers must make that room or location available to an employee who expresses her breast milk as needed. In this case, employers must also notify all employees that the room has been designated for use by employees who express their breast milk.
Employers who cannot meet the requirements due to undue hardship must make “reasonable efforts” to provide a room or other location (not a toilet or restroom) close to the work area, as defined below. top, where an employee can express breast milk. in privacy. The Act defines undue hardship as a request that would result in “significant hardship or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature or structure of the employer’s business”.
Lactation Accommodation Policy Requirements
The Act would also require employers to distribute a written policy regarding the rights of nursing employees. The state would be responsible for developing and providing a model policy, similar to the state creating model sexual harassment policies and training. The policy should inform employees of their lactation accommodation rights and provide employees with a process to request a lactation room or location, to which employers must respond within five business days.
Employers would be required to distribute the written policy:
- to new employees as soon as they are hired,
- on an annual basis thereafter, and
- when an employee returns to work following the birth of a child.
What Employers Should Do Now
To prepare for the requirements of the Act, employers should:
- review current policies and practices and revise them as necessary to ensure compliance with all federal, New York State and New York City laws regarding lactation accommodations;
- assess workspaces to arrange for necessary renovations or other changes to a room or location that would meet the requirements set out in the Act;
- prepare a procedure by which to distribute a written policy of employee lactation rights (for example, incorporate such a policy into a manual or onboarding materials); and
- train supervisors and human resources staff on any changes to current lactation accommodation policies and procedures.
We will continue to monitor the status of the Act to ensure timely compliance with any changes.