NYC Council Votes to Require Lactation Room and Accommodation Policy

On October 17, 2018, the New York City Council passed several bills, referred to as a parental empowerment package, which will likely be signed by the mayor. These bills require employers with 15 or more employees to provide a “lactation space” and “lactation accommodation” for employees who need to express and store breast milk.  Specifically, employers will be required to designate a private sanitary place that is not a restroom for purposes of expressing milk. Although since 2008 New York State law has required employers to allow nursing mothers with breaks to express milk, New York City will require a dedicated room for this purpose. In addition to providing a lactation space, which must be in reasonable proximity to the employee’s work area, the law will also require that employers provide a refrigerator that is suitable for breast milk storage.

For employers that are unable to designate a room solely for lactation purposes, the law will permit employers to use a room that is also used for other purposes provided that the primary function of the room will be as a lactation space. An employer will be exempt from the requirement of providing a lactation space if the employer can demonstrate that it would pose an undue hardship in the form of “significant expense or operational difficulty.” Nevertheless, the standard for demonstrating an undue hardship would be high and employers would still be required to accommodate the needs of the employee.

The law will go into effect 120 days after the mayor signs it. In the meantime, employers should prepare now to identify a room that qualifies as a lactation space, and revisit their lactation policies, which will be required to conform to the law’s specific requirement. We are available to answer questions on this law, and as always, will keep you posted on developments, including the effective date of the proposed law.