Breastfeeding Under New York State Law
New or expecting mothers in New York must know their rights!
ALBANY, NY – In an effort to stamp out pregnancy discrimination, New York State was the first state in the U.S. to pass a law protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed in public. Under the law, a mother has the right to “breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the mother’s breast is covered during or incidental to the breast feeding.”
Mothers also have rights once they return to work. Section 206-c of the New York State Labor Law is titled “Right of Nursing Mothers to Express Breast Milk.” Under this statute, mothers have the right to use paid break or meal times, or reasonable unpaid break times, to pump milk or nurse their children for up to a period of three years. Employers must attempt to accommodate an employees’ request for a private place to pump milk. Employers cannot discriminate against employees who elect to pump milk at work or retaliate against women who assert their rights to do so. This law is applicable to all public and private employers, notwithstanding of the size or nature of the business.
Under the law, both the employer and employee must provide notice. Employers must provide written notice of the mother’s rights when they returning to work, give birth, and desire to take unpaid leave for the purpose of expressing breast milk. Such notice may be found in the employee handbook or posting of the notice in a central location for all employees to see. Additionally, employees wishing to take advantage of the statute must provide advance notice to their employer, if possible prior to the employee’s return to work so the employer has an opportunity to accommodate the mother in a location and schedule leave time amongst multiple employees if needed.
What locations are acceptable for mothers to breastfeed or pump at work? This depends on factors such as 1. the nature of work performed at the business; 2. the overall size and physical layout of the business; 3. the type of facility where the business is housed; 4. the size and composition of the employer’s workforce; 5. the business’ general hours of operation and the employees’ normal work shifts; 6. the relative cost of providing a room or other space for the dedicated purpose. However, the employer must make a “reasonable effort” that the room or other location provided for is neither significantly inconvenient, impracticable, or expensive to the employer to do so, and the designated area must be hygienic.
A clean vacant office or other room is acceptable so long the room is not open to the public or other employees while the mother is using the room to nurse or pump. A restroom or toilet stall are not proper locations. Under limited circumstances, other hygienic locations may be acceptable as a last resort.
Each break should generally be no less than 20 minutes, or 30 minutes if the designated location is not proximate to the employee’s typical working location. By way of example, for a mother working an 8-hour workday, pumping time is about 10-20 minutes approximately 2-3 times. Moreover, employers must allow mothers to work before or after her normal shift to make up the amount of time used during the unpaid break time, so long this is still within business hours.
Breastfeeding Under Federal Law
For expecting mothers of current mothers not living in New York, Federal law also protects them. Under the Affordable Care Act and Federal Labor Standards Act employers are required to provide reasonable break time and a place for mothers to express milk “for her nursing [their] child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Employers are required to provide “a place other than a bathroom that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
Also under the Affordable Care Act, as of August 1, 2011, The Department of Health and Human Services adopted additional Guidelines for Women’s Preventive Services including support for breastfeeding mothers. Such support includes breastfeeding supplies, support, and counseling for pregnant and postpartum women, and breastfeeding equipment.
Prior to maternity leave, expecting mothers should talk to their employers about having a private and convenient place to pump breast milk, how long they may be on maternity leave, and having a reduced schedule for the first few weeks after returning from maternity leave.
Pregnant women and mothers have rights in the workplace! The skilled New York City sexual harassment and discrimination attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC, have years of experience litigating claims of pregnancy discrimination. We have recovered millions on behalf of our clients who have experienced discrimination in the workplace. If you believe that you have been treated unfairly, do not hesitate to give our office a call at (800) 807-2209 for your free consultation.