New York employers must re-evaluate their obligations to nursing mothers in the workplace under an amendment to the state Labor Law that expands accommodations to nursing mothers.

The amended law requires employers to designate a specific room or location for lactation and adds details on what the room or location must have. Specifically, employers must designate a lactation room/location which is:

  • not a restroom
  • well lit
  • shielded from view and free from intrusion of other people
  • includes a chair
  • includes a work surface (e.g., a table or desk)
  • has access to running water
  • has an electrical outlet, if the workplace is otherwise supplied with electricity

Further, if the workplace has access to a refrigerator, employers must provide nursing mothers with access to the refrigerator for the purpose of storing expressed milk.

Employers are required to provide notice to employees as soon as practicable when the lactation room is designated. If, due to space or other considerations a separate room is not possible (i.e., a room only to be used for lactation), employers must designate a room for lactation use that must be made available when needed by a nursing mother.

Employers can proactively create a designated lactation space or respond to employee requests for such a space. Employers must respond to such requests within five days.

The new law also directs the Department of Labor to develop a written policy setting forth the rights of nursing employees to express breast milk in the workplace. Employers must provide the policy to all employees in three separate circumstances: upon hiring, annually, and to an employee returning to work after the birth of a child.

The law goes into effect on June 7, 2023. Employers should consider what changes, if any, they need to make to their workplace. The law contains certain exceptions for employers who will face “significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.” Even in these cases however, employers still must make “reasonable efforts” to set up a private, non-restroom location for lactation.

Should you need help complying with the new law or have questions, please contact Harris Beach Attorney Ibrahim Tariq, at (585) 419-8556 and itariq@harrisbeach.com, who advises public and private employers in all areas of labor and employment law or the Harris Beach attorney with whom you most frequently work.

This alert is not a substitute for advice of counsel on specific legal issues.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York state, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse, Uniondale and White Plains, as well as Washington D.C., New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.