New York State Employers Must Pay Employees During Lactation Breaks

Effective Wednesday, June 19, 2024, employers in New York State must provide 30 minutes of paid break time each time an employee has a reasonable need to express breast milk, for up to three years following childbirth. These breaks are in addition to, and not instead of, existing break time. Employers must also allow employees to use existing meal time or paid break time if the employee needs more than 30 minutes to pump, and the employee may choose to take a 30-minute paid lactation break immediately before or after their existing, regularly-scheduled break or meal time.

Accompanying guidance from the New York State Department of Labor does not set a specific limit on the number of paid breaks an employee may take throughout the day for this purpose; rather, the guidance states the number of lactation breaks will depend upon an employee’s individual reasonable needs.     

Employers may not force an employee to extend their workday beyond the employee’s regularly scheduled hours because the employee took lactation breaks during the day, and the employer cannot require an employee to make up the paid break time or to work while the employee is pumping.

What should employers do?

Update Your Policy. A previous amendment to New York State’s breastfeeding accommodations law already required employers to provide a state-created policy regarding the rights of employees to express breast milk to each employee upon hire and annually thereafter, and to employees upon returning to work following the birth of a child. With this change in the law to provide paid breaks, the state has issued a new policy. Employers should ensure the form they distribute is up to date, as well as update any hyperlinks to an electronic copy of this policy.

Update Your Handbook. To the extent an employer has a separate breastfeeding accommodations policy in their employee handbook, the employer should review and update the policy language to reflect the change in the law. Employers should consider whether other updates may be necessary, including to policies regarding working hours, breaks, and hours counted toward overtime.

Confirm Lactation Room Requirements. While an employer does not need to have a room available if it does not currently have any breastfeeding employees, it should confirm if and how it could meet the space requirements if an employee requests accommodations. At minimum, the room must have a chair, working surface, nearby access to clean running water, and, if the workplace is supplied with electricity, an electrical outlet. The room must also be in close proximity to the work area, well lit, shielded from view, and free from intrusion. The full list of requirements can be found in New York State Labor Law § 206-c, and the accompanying guidance published by the state.

Train Your Managers. Managers should be trained to respond to employees’ requests for breastfeeding accommodations, including how to work with employees to schedule the appropriate breaks.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our Labor and Employment team.

Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. This publication is provided as a service to clients and friends of Harter Secrest & Emery LLP. It is intended for general information purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. The contents are neither an exhaustive discussion nor do they purport to cover all developments in the area. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how applicable laws relate to specific situations. ©2024 Harter Secrest & Emery LLP