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New York Amends Nursing Protections Law

On December 9, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law an amendment to the NY State Labor Law (S4844B) that expands workplace protections for nursing employees, effective June 7, 2023. The new law expands on already existing requirements under the Labor Law Section 206-c. The purpose of this bill is to require all employers in New York provide the same accommodations for nursing mothers that already exist for certain public employees.

Under the current law, employers must provide reasonable time once every three hours for up to three years following the birth of a child. Under the amended law, employers will be required to provide break time to nursing employees “each time” an employee has a reasonable need to express breast milk” for up to three years following the birth of a child.

The amended law also includes additional stipulations for lactation rooms and would require employers to not only ensure that a private space is available for lactation purposes, but to ensure that lactation spaces include a chair, access to running water, a working space and an electrical outlet. Once a room or other location has been designated for use by employees to express breast milk, employers will be required to provide notice regarding the location to all employees as soon as practicable.

The law will also require employers to adopt a policy which will be developed by the New York Department of Labor (DOL) to notify employees of their rights when breastfeeding in the workplace. Employers will be required to provide the written policy to each employee upon hire and annually thereafter, as well as, to employees returning to work after the birth of a child. At this time, it is unclear when the model notice is expected to be made available by the NY DOL.

All employers are expected to comply with these expanded requirements unless an undue hardship exists. Should an employer experience a hardship, such as “significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature or structure of the employer’s business,” the employer is still required to make “reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, other than a restroom or toilet stall, that is in close proximity to the work area where an employee can express breast milk in privacy.”

Next Steps for Employers

Prior to the effective date, employers should review their existing nursing break policy to ensure it aligns with these new requirements and be prepared to adopt any additional policy requirements outlined by the state. NYC employers should also be mindful of requirements under local law.

HR Works will continue to monitor this topic and provide updates as more information becomes available.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.