Jan 30th, 2023

New Legislation Provides Additional Protection for New Mothers in the Workplace

On December 9, 2022, Governor Hochul signed legislation amending Section 206-c of the Labor Law and expanding the rights of employees who need to express breast milk while at work. The stated goal of this legislation is to ensure that all nursing employees across the state are provided with the same accommodations that already exist for certain State and Federal public employees. All employers must now provide reasonable unpaid break time, or permit an employee to use paid break time or meal time to express breast milk “each time that employee has a reasonable need” to do so.

Previously, the law required employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a location “in close proximity to the work area” where an employee could pump in private. The law now places additional requirements on employers: upon request by a pumping employee, the employer must designate a room or other location that is (a) in close proximity to the work area; (b) well lit; (c) shielded from view; and (d) free from intrusion from other individuals. The law explicitly states that a restroom or toilet stall is not an acceptable room or location for a pumping employee. The room or other location must, at minimum, have a chair, a working surface, nearby access to clean running water, and an electrical outlet. If the workplace has access to refrigeration, the employer must provide access to the pumping employee for purposes of storing expressed milk.

If the pumping room or location is also used for other purposes, the employer must ensure that it is made available to a pumping employee when needed, and that it is not used for any other purpose or function while it is in use by a pumping employee. Once such a room or location has been designated in the workplace, employers must provide notice to all employees of such designation as soon as is practicable.

The law recognizes that compliance with the new requirements may impose an undue hardship on certain employers by causing significant difficulty or expense in relation to the size, financial resources, nature or structure of the employer’s business. However, even if an employer can show that it is unable to comply fully with the more detailed requirements related to the pumping room due to undue hardship, the law states that the employer must still make reasonable efforts to provide a private room or other location—other than a restroom or toilet stall—that is in close proximity to the workplace. In addition, such employer must still allow a pumping employee to express breastmilk each time that employee has a reasonable need to do so, and may not discriminate in any way against an employee who chooses to pump in the workplace.

Finally, the law requires employers to maintain a “written policy” regarding the rights of nursing employees, which must be provided annually to all employees, upon hire to new employees, and to employees returning to work following the birth of their child. The policy must, at a minimum: (a) inform employees of their rights under this section of the law; (b) specify the means by which a request may be submitted by an employee to an employer for a room or other location to pump; and (c) require the employer to respond to such a request in no more than five (5) business days.

The amendments to Labor Law Section 206-c go into effect June 7, 2023.

If you have any questions about your school district’s obligation or ability to meet the requirements of this new law, please contact Lindsay Plantholt.


Lindsay A. G. Plantholt

View Attorney Profile