All New York employers are now required to provide 30-minute paid lactation breaks following a recent amendment to Labor Law § 206-c.

New York State has long required employers to support working mothers by providing certain accommodations for nursing employees.

Last year, the State imposed a written lactation accommodation policy requirement on all employers, following the lead of New York City and California (among other jurisdictions) [see our Insight on the lactation accommodation legislation here]. As of June 19, 2024, employers’ obligations have again expanded: all New York State employers must provide 30 minutes of paid break time for employees to express breast milk for their nursing child for up to three years following the child’s birth.

The obligations are prescribed by an amendment to the State’s breastmilk expression law, New York Labor Law § 206-C (the “Law”), which was enacted as part of a package of legislation accompanying the New York State Budget for Fiscal Year 2024-2025, signed into law on April 20, 2024 by New York Governor Kathy Hochul. Shortly before the Law took effect, the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) published new materials under the headline “Breast Milk Expression in the Workplace,” including general information about the Law, a policy statement, information sheets for employees and employers, and frequently asked questions (FAQs).

NYSDOL Sheds Light on Compliance With the Law

New York State has long required unpaid break time to express breast milk, so initially there was some question regarding whether the Law would require employers to provide the paid break time more than once daily. NYSDOL’s Information Sheet for Employers answers in the affirmative. Employers must allow employees to take paid breaks when the employee has a reasonable need, and paid breaks must be 30 minutes. The paid 30-minute paid lactation breaks are in addition to any regularly paid break or meal time and may be taken in succession with such breaks, before or after.

Although an employer is required to provide paid thirty-minute breaks each time a lactating employee has a need to express breast milk, an employee may voluntarily opt to take shorter paid breaks or may use existing paid break time or meal time if needed for any lactation break time longer than 30 minutes. Employees may not be required to stay beyond regularly scheduled work hours to make up time used for pumping at work.

What to Do Now

In addition to reviewing wage and hour policies, employers should review their notice procedures. The Law imposes a notice obligation on employers, specifically requiring employers to provide all employees with the NYSDOL Policy on the Rights of Employees to Express Breast Milk in the Workplace when an employee starts employment and annually thereafter, as well as to individual employees whenever they return to work following the birth of a child.

As a reminder, New York employers remain bound by the lactation room requirements enacted in 2023, explained within NYSDOL’s FAQs. And New York City employers must also comply with the City’s lactation accommodation and policy obligations.

Employers should ensure lactation compliance in all jurisdictions where they operate, as New York is not the first state to require paid lactation breaks. For example, although New York’s requirement applies to both remote and non-remote employees, Georgia requires employers to provide paid break time for employees expressing breast milk at the worksite during work hours. Further, the federal PUMP Act, applicable to most employers, also sets forth protections for employees who need to pump while at their workplaces.

Jessica Hajdukiewicz, a Law Clerk – Pending Admission (not admitted to the practice of law) in the firm’s New York office, contributed to the preparation of this post.

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