Nursing Mothers Law takes effect: Here’s what employers and employees need to know

June 8, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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A significant step towards supporting nursing mothers in the workplace was taken this week when the updated Nursing Mothers Law officially went into effect in New York State.

This new law imposes several specific obligations on employers, extending beyond providing facilities and breaks to nursing mothers. The updated law requires employers to inform employees about their rights and the responsibilities of their employers, with a focus on creating an enabling environment for nursing mothers.

“Though facilities and breaks for nursing mothers have been the statewide law for some time, the law that takes effect (Wednesday) imposes several very specific obligations on employers, including notice to all employees of those responsibilities and their rights,” said Rachel Demarest Gold, a partner at Abrams Fensterman, where she practices with the Firm’s Labor and Employment, Criminal, and Government Litigation, Law and Policy practice groups.

The new law stipulates that nursing employees are entitled to unpaid breaks as frequently as needed for up to three years after they give birth. It advises employers to ensure hourly workers clock out during these breaks. While the breaks are unpaid, employers need to record that these breaks were taken and their duration. Moreover, the law necessitates that employees be allowed to compensate for the lost time due to breaks either before or after their shifts.

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An essential part of the legislation is the requirement for employers to provide a private room, separate from the bathroom, equipped with a chair, a small table, an electrical outlet, and a clean water supply. If refrigeration is available at the workplace, employers must provide nursing mothers with access to milk storage.

The law applies to all public and private employers in New York State, regardless of the size or nature of the business. It’s also incumbent upon the employers to inform employees returning to work post-childbirth about their right to take unpaid leave for the purpose of pumping breast milk.

The law emphasizes privacy, requiring that the space provided for pumping breast milk should be isolated from other employees, customers, or members of the public. In case of insufficient space for a dedicated lactation room, employers can utilize a temporarily vacant room or a fully enclosed cubicle with walls at least seven feet tall.

Employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against any employee who chooses to pump breast milk at the workplace or files a complaint with the Department of Labor regarding this issue, Demarest  Gold explained to the Brooklyn Eagle.

“All these rules need to be on every Employer’s radar, but how they should be implemented for each business and location must be individually assessed,” Demarest Gold said.

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