Participants eagerly joined to examine the NYC Lactation Accommodation Law, specifically the accommodations employers must make for lactation breaks. On Tuesday, March 30th, Human Resources experts gathered for another iteration of the HR RoundTable (HRRT). TemPositions’ own Roger Oliver, our Director of Strategic Accounts, founded HRRT. It serves as a venue where Human Resources professionals discuss the dynamic HR landscape. This time around, Joseph H. Harris, Labor and Employment partner at Barton LLP, presented. In the hour and a half long conversation, a few key topics surfaced
This law will take effect on June 7, 2023, giving employers some time to make the proper preparations. Signed on December 9, 2022, the workplace lactation rights law “requires private employers to ‘designate a room or other location” that is not a ‘restroom or toilet stall’ for employees to ‘express breast milk.’”
Human resources professionals asked our team of experts to clarify the ins and outs of this new law. Below we’ve provided a summary of questions and answers:
Is there a limit to the number of lactation breaks that an employee can take per day?
In short: there are no limits. “They can take as many as they need,” Harris emphasizes, either “on an unpaid basis, or if they want to, they can be allowed to use paid break time.”
Do the breaks have to be paid?
In short: no. But it’s not quite that simple. “The breaks can be unpaid,” Harris explains, “[and] you have to give this accommodation for up to one year after the child’s birth.” But Harris urged that companies should consider the other types of paid break times. If lactation breaks are unpaid, he notes, “could that potentially be a problem, even if you didn’t intend it to be so?”
“Think of it in the larger context of your time off and leave laws more generally,” he says. “Make sure that, even if you’re complying with the technical requirements of the law, you’re not doing so in such isolation that it creations a perfection of adverse treatment.”
How quickly do employers need to meet a lactation space request?
When an employee returns after childbirth, Harris explains, and they request access to the lactation space or room, “you have to get back to them within five business days.” What’s more: “the period of time in which this law applies the protection is three years following childbirth [in New York].” By comparison, the federal law is only one year.
Read the first HR Roundtable blog post in this series, navigating the NYC Pay Transparency Law.
What qualifies as a sufficient lactation space?
A lactation space in the workplace must be a private location that is not a bathroom. “It has to be well lit,” Harris clarifies, “and close to the work area.” The space must be properly fit for work, including a chair, a flat surface, and an outlet.
Could remote work function as an accommodation for the Lactation Accommodation Law?
“I don’t think that’s going to fly,” Harris notes. “I understand the argument,” he admits, “letting [an employee] work from home as a way to [provide a lactation space].” But ultimately, employers are required to provide a space of their own. From a legal standpoint, it could be interpreted that the employee asked for a lactation space as the law specified but, rather than comply, they were in essence “told they had to go home and couldn’t be part of the workplace for the next three years, [all] because they have to express milk during the day.” Thus, “they were essentially excluded from [workplace culture].” And, in theory, “that affected their promotions and pay, even though it’s not intended that way.”
Catering to nursing parents in the workplace with the Lactation Accommodation Law
To prevent a mad dash to accommodate this law, employers are advised to act now according to the given guidelines. Lactating parents will appreciate the foresight and, furthermore, it will show the organization’s commitment and appreciation for parenthood.