New York State Now Requires Paid Lactation Breaks

As of recent changes in New York Labor Law, employers are now obligated to provide paid break time for up to 30 minutes each time an employee needs to express breast milk for their nursing child. This amendment, which can be found in New York Labor Law Section 206-c(1), stipulates that employers must provide this paid break time and may allow employees to use existing paid break time or meal time for time in excess of 30 minutes. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees who choose to express breast milk in the workplace.

In preparation for the effective date, the New York Department of Labor has updated its FAQs to address the new pay requirement. Employees are required to provide advanced written notice if they intend to use the leave, and they may use other break time if they require more than 30 minutes. Employers must reasonably accommodate the number of breaks the particular employee may need, and they cannot require employees to make up the paid break time.

The law is silent on how frequently it would be reasonable for an employee to use this new paid break benefit, but previous New York Department of Labor guidance suggests that employees “can take breaks at least once every three hours to pump breast milk.”

Employers are now required to distribute a Policy of the Rights of Employees to Express Breast Milk in the Workplace to employees upon hire and annually thereafter, as well as when an employee returns to work following the birth of a child. This policy describes the new paid break requirement, as well as existing requirements, such as providing a private room or space for employees to express breast milk.

This amendment follows the EEOC’s June 18, 2024 interpretive guidance on the implementation of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which prohibits employers from seeking supporting documentation for lactation accommodations.

Governor Hochul has stated that unpaid leave has been unsuccessful at addressing rising infant and maternal mortality rates, particularly for lower income individuals who may be reluctant to take unpaid time off. In response, she announced a new policy initiative in January to address this crisis.

Employers are advised to revisit any policies relating to pregnancy accommodations in light of these changes, and the Mintz employment team is available to help employers ensure their policies and procedures remain in compliance with the new regulations.

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