Lactation Rights and Right to Pump Breast Milk
Pregnancy discrimination laws cover a broad range of adverse actions against pregnant women, women who have just given birth to a child, and women with pregnancy-related medical conditions. In 2018, the New York City Council passed two bills that mandate that employers must provide lactation rooms to breastfeeding employees and institute written policies in connection with this mandate. If your employer has not given you a lactation room or an accommodation for nursing, this may be pregnancy discrimination, and you should consult a New York City pregnancy discrimination lawyer to find out about your lactation rights.Providing a Lactation Room
Employers in New York City must abide by the city’s administrative code. The law requires employers to give nursing or pumping employees a lactation room. A lactation room is a room that is only to be used as such during the period when an employee needs to use it to express breast milk. If you are breastfeeding, your employer is supposed to let other employees know that you have a preference to use the designated room, while you are using the room to express milk.
The designated lactation room cannot be a restroom. It needs to be a clean place where you are able to express breast milk, without people intruding on you, and where you cannot be seen. The lactation room needs to include a chair, an electrical outlet, and a surface on which to place personal effects, including a breast pump, and it should be accessible to a sink or other running water. The lactation room, as well as a refrigerator that is appropriate for storing breast milk, is supposed to be located reasonably near to where your workspace as a breastfeeding employee is.
There are some circumstances under which giving an employee a lactation room would be an undue hardship for a business. If providing you with a lactation room would be an undue hardship for your employer, your employer is supposed to engage with you in a cooperative written or oral dialogue about whether there is an alternative accommodation for your lactation rights that the employer can give you. The cooperative dialogue should culminate in the employer’s written final decision, which identifies which accommodations were denied or granted.Written Lactation Room Policies
Another bill requires employers to put in place and execute a written lactation room policy. If you are a new hire, you should be given a copy of this lactation room policy. The written policy needs to let you know that you are entitled to the lactation room and describe the process whereby you can ask to use a lactation room. However, you should be aware that the policy does not need to be distributed to current employees, who are those who were employed at the time that the bill was passed.
The policy for employees asking to use a lactation room needs to let you know how you can submit a request to use the lactation room, require an employer to respond within a reasonable amount of time (which is not more than five business days), give a procedure to follow when two or more people need to utilize the room at once, notify you that the employer will give a reasonable break time for you to express breast milk under section 206-c of the New York Labor Law, and notify you that if the request for a lactation room presents an undue hardship for the employer, the employer will get involved in a cooperative dialogue.Assert Your Rights with the Assistance of a New York City Attorney
Pregnant workers and new mothers may face significant hurdles when trying to return to a job after having just given birth. An issue that affects many new mothers is figuring out whether to continue breastfeeding after returning to the job and whether to pump. If your New York City employer is not honoring your lactation rights, you should consult an experienced attorney. Call Phillips & Associates at (212) 248-7431 or contact us through our online form. Our employment lawyers serve people in Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, as well as Long Island, Westchester County, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
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