New York City’s New Lactation Laws Impose Additional Requirements on Employers

December 05, 2018

New lactation laws in New York City, effective March 18, 2019, describe minimum requirements for lactation rooms, mandate that employers develop a written lactation room policy and provide notice of this policy to all employees, and require that employers make lactation rooms available to employees upon request.

On March 18, 2019, two new companion laws, Int. No. 879-A and Int. No. 905-A, regarding lactation rooms for employees will take effect in New York City. These companion laws—applicable to employers with four or more employees in New York City—amend the New York City Administrative Code to require that employers make a lactation room available for employees upon request, create new minimum standards for a compliant lactation room, and create new lactation policy and notice requirements. The bills were passed into law after Mayor Bill de Blasio neither signed nor vetoed the proposed legislation within 30 days of receiving it.

Lactation Room Requirements

The new laws require that all employers of four or more NYC employees provide two specific accommodations to employees who need to express breast milk during the workday: (1) a lactation room; and (2) a refrigerator suitable for breast milk storage. Both of these items must be in reasonable proximity to the employee’s work area. The law defines a “lactation room” as a sanitary place, other than a restroom, that can be used to express breast milk shielded from view and free from intrusion. This room must also include an electrical outlet, a chair, a surface on which to place a breast pump and other personal items, and nearby access to running water.

In addition, if the designated lactation room is used for another purpose, the sole function of the room shall be as a lactation room while an employee is using it to express breast milk. The law mandates that if a lactation room is used for multiple purposes, the employer must provide notice to other employees who seek to use the room that preference is given for lactation use. In practice, we recommend using a room with a locking door and perhaps including a sign specifying the use of the room and that if occupied, its occupants are not to be disturbed.

If it would be an undue hardship to provide a lactation room, employers may engage in the cooperative dialogue process to determine whether there is another suitable accommodation; employers must then inform employees in writing of the outcome of the accommodation request. Although there is not yet formal guidance on the new laws, given prior guidance from the New York City Commission on Human Rights (the Commission) and courts interpreting the NYC Human Rights Law, we expect that it will be difficult for many employers to establish that providing a lactation room is an undue burden.

Policy and Notice Requirements

The new laws also require that employers develop and implement a written policy regarding the provision of a lactation room, which must be distributed to all new employees upon hire. This policy must include a statement that employees have a right to request a lactation room and identify the process for doing so. The process for addressing requests must

  • specify the means by which an employee may submit a request for a lactation room;
  • require that the employer respond to a request for a lactation room within a reasonable amount of time not to exceed five business days;
  • provide a procedure to follow when two or more individuals need to use the lactation room at the same time, including contact information for any follow-up required;
  • state that the employer shall provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk pursuant to Section 206-c of the New York State Labor Law; and
  • state that if the request for a lactation room poses an undue hardship on the employer, the employer shall engage in a cooperative dialogue with the employee.

The Commission will establish and make available a model lactation accommodation policy for employers to use. However, as this model policy will not be tailored to any specific employer, we recommend that employers create their own versions that incorporate the specific requirements described above.


As the new laws require employers to have a written policy lactation room accommodation policy, employers should review their current accommodation policies to ensure that they are compliant with the process requirements of these new laws. In reviewing these policies, employers should be careful to make the policy gender neutral and refer to all employees rather than nursing mothers or female employees specifically.

Once the Commission releases its model policy, Morgan Lewis will prepare a template lactation room policy.


If you would like assistance in reviewing current accommodation policies, have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

New York
Douglas T. Schwarz
Kenneth J. Turnbull
Kimberley E. Lunetta
Daniel A. Kadish