United States: New York Expands Lactation Rights And Deadline Approaches For Sexual Harassment Training

Last Updated: April 23 2019
Article by Joshua Zuckerberg, LaKeisha M.A. Caton and Giovanna Marchese

New York City has recently expanded protections for nursing mothers in the workplace. The new law imposes additional standards for lactation rooms at work, mandates that employers adopt a written lactation room policy and provide notice of this policy to their employees, and requires employers to implement a process for handling lactation-related accommodation requests.

Minimum Standards for Lactation Rooms

Employers in NYC with four or more employees ("Covered Employers") must provide a lactation room to employees who need to express breast milk during the workday in reasonable proximity to the employees' work area. Furthermore, the lactation room must provide nearby access to running water and contain (i) a chair and a flat surface on which to place a breast pump and other personal items; (ii) a refrigerator suitable for breast milk storage in reasonable proximity to the employees' work area; and (iii) an electrical outlet in the lactation room itself. If the lactation room can be used for other purposes, the room must be solely used as a lactation room any time an employee is using the room to express milk, and the employer must provide notice to other employees that the priority purpose of the room is for expressing milk. If providing a lactation room as mandated by NYC law would impose an undue hardship on a Covered Employer, it must engage in a cooperative dialogue with the employee requesting such a room to determine whether there is another suitable accommodation. In other words, the employer must engage in a good-faith dialogue with the employee, propose an alternative accommodation if the one requested is unreasonable, and provide a written final determination to the employee that identifies any accommodation that is granted or denied.

Lactation Policy

Covered Employers are also required to have a written policy regarding lactation rooms in the workplace which must be distributed to all new employees upon hire. The policy should apprise employees about the existence of a lactation room and also about the process for requesting lactation-related accommodations. 

An employer's policy regarding the process for requesting an accommodation must:

  1. Specify the means by which an employee may submit a request for a lactation room;
  2. Require the employer to respond to a request for a lactation room within a reasonable amount of time not to exceed five business days;
  3. Provide a procedure to follow when two or more individuals need to use the lactation room at the same time, including contact information for any follow up required;
  4. State that the employer will provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk; and
  5. State that if the request for a lactation room poses an undue hardship on the employer, the employer shall engage in a cooperative dialogue.

The New York City Commission on Human Rights, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, has developed model lactation policies to comply with the new requirements listed above. Those model policies are available here

Sexual Harassment Training for New York State and New York City Employers

As we reported in our  September 18, 2018 Legal Update, New York City and New York State have each passed comprehensive laws targeting sexual harassment in the workplace.

Sexual Harassment Training Deadline

The NYS Sexual Harassment Law provides that all NYS employers regardless of size must ensure that all of their employees complete model training set forth by the State, or comparable training that meets the State's minimum standards, by October 9, 2019, and repeat such training at least once per year. As we previously advised, all new employees are presently required to complete their sexual harassment prevention training within 30 days of their start date and then once per year thereafter. The law defines "employee" as all workers, regardless of immigration status, including exempt and non-exempt employees, part-time workers, seasonal workers, and temporary workers. Employers should keep a record of all trainings for three years, including a signed employee acknowledgment. 

Notably, NYC also requires certain employers to provide sexual harassment training, and the New York City Commission on Human Rights has partnered with the New York State Division of Human Rights and the New York State Department of Labor regarding training standards. This means that NYC employers can comply with both the NYS and NYC Sexual Harassment Laws by using the online training provided by the New York City Commission on Human Rights available here.

Recommendation

Employers in NYC should make sure that they are in compliance with the new lactation law, and employers in NYS and NYC should be prepared to provide training that complies with state and city law by the impending deadlines. Please feel free to  contact Pryor Cashman with any questions or for assistance in connection with these new requirements.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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