In an exciting victory for workers’ rights, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation expanding the rights of nursing employees in New York on December 9th. The new law sets detailed standards for employer-provided lactation spaces and protects workers from retaliation for asserting their right to pump at work. The law will go into effect in June of 2023.
New York employers have been required to provide employees with reasonable break time and space to pump since 2007. The new law clarifies that employers must provide safe, sanitary, and functional lactation spaces for employees who need to express breast milk at work. These much-needed updates codify and expand upon existing guidance from the New York Department of Labor, and align the law more closely with protections in the New York City Human Rights Law we worked to pass in 2018.
The new law requires employers to provide paid break time to a lactating employee whenever the employee has a reasonable need to express milk. The law also requires an employer, if requested by an employee who is lactating, to:
- Provide a designated lactation space—other than a restroom or bathroom stall—that is close to the employee’s work area, well-lit, and private.
- Ensure that the lactation space has a chair, a surface, nearby access to clean running water, and (if the workplace has electricity) an electrical outlet.
- Provide such a lactation space unless it is really difficult or expensive for them to do so (and even if it is, they must still provide the paid break time the law guarantees).
- Provide employees with a policy that informs employees of their rights under this law, specifies how employees can submit requests for lactation space, and requires employers to respond to those requests within no more than five business days.
The law also requires that, if there is a refrigerator in the workplace, lactating employees be allowed to use it to store expressed milk.
The new law guarantees that employees are protected from retaliation for exercising their right to break time and the use of a lactation space. Employers may not fire, threaten, penalize, or otherwise discriminate against employees who need to lactate at work.
These updates to the law reflect the realities faced by lactating employees in New York, who still struggle to get adequate time and space to express breast milk. New parents should not be forced to choose between keeping their job and nursing their child, and this legislation advances critical protections for nursing workers. We look forward to the law going into effect and providing information about these new rights to the workers we serve.