Recent amendments to the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) took effect on March 17, 2019. These amendments expand the requirements for employers to provide lactation space for breastfeeding employees and to develop lactation policies and processes for employees to request accommodations for nursing.
New parts of the law require employers to designate as a lactation room a sanitary space other than a restroom where employees can express breast milk while shielded from view and free from intrusion. The room must include a space to place at least a breast pump and other personal items, must be near running water, and must have an electrical outlet and a chair. In addition, both the lactation room and a refrigerator suitable for storing breast milk must be reasonably close to the employees' work area. When not in use for purposes of expressing milk, the room may be used for other purposes, but the employer is required to notify other employees that the room is given preference for use as a lactation room. If, however, providing a lactation room results in an undue hardship for an employer, the employer is required to engage in a cooperative dialogue with the employee(s) to determine what if any other accommodation(s) might be available and to provide a written final determination to the employee(s) identifying any accommodation(s) that were granted or denied – as is necessary when providing accommodations for other protected purposes under NYC law.
The other new part of the law requires employers to distribute to all new hires a written policy about the right to request a lactation room and to identify a process by which an employee may request use of the room. This process must specify the way an employee may submit such a request; require the employer to respond within five business days; provide a procedure to follow when two or more individuals need to use the room at the same time; state that the employer will provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk (per Section 206-c of the New York Labor Law); and state that if the employer cannot provide a lactation space, the employer will engage in a cooperative dialogue with the employee(s) and provide the employee(s) with a written response that identifies the basis upon which the employer has denied the request. Notably, employers are now required to retain records of requests for a lactation space (including the date of the request and a description of how the employer resolved the request) for at least three years
The New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCHR) has made available model policies, request forms and FAQs. If they have not yet done so, employers should immediately review their policies and procedures to ensure compliance with these new amendments
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