New York State Now Requires 30-Minute Paid Lactation Breaks

By Nicholas J. Fiorenza, Partner, Ferrara Fiorenza PC, Association Counsel

For the past year or so, New York employers have been adapting to the State law protections granting employees returning from childbirth leave the right to express breast milk at work. Initially, employers were obligated to provide unpaid breaks of a minimum 20 to 30 minutes every three hours. A year into this requirement, the employers’ obligation has been significantly changed by a 2024 State budget bill. The budget bill’s amendment to New York Labor Law §206-c now provides employees the right to “paid break time for 30 minutes” to express milk, as well as the right “to use existing paid break time or mealtime for time in excess of 30 minutes”.

Faced with uncertainty as to how many paid breaks per day are required under the new law, the New York Department of Labor has issued a new model policy “clarifying” the requirements of section 206-c. In so doing, New York has established the broadest workplace lactation rights in the nation. The Department of Labor notes as follows:

“Employers must provide thirty (30) minutes of paid break time for their employees to express breast milk when the employee has a reasonable need to express breast milk. Employees must be permitted to use existing paid break or mealtime if they need additional time for breast milk expression beyond the paid 30 minutes. This time must be provided for up to three years following childbirth. Employers must provide paid break time as often as an employee reasonably needs to express breast milk. The number of paid breaks an employee will need to express breast milk is unique to each employee and employers must provide reasonable break times based on the individual.”

Employers should note that these lactation rights are in addition to any other regularly paid break time enjoyed by employees and may not be deducted from them.  Moreover, employers are prohibited from discriminating against an employee who takes these breaks as described.

The new model policy also includes both employer and employee notice requirements. Employers are to inform employees upon hire, once a year thereafter, and when returning to work after childbirth about these rights.

Employers are urged to review their policies and compliance strategies with respect to this recently updated employment obligation.

Nicholas J. Fiorenza, Partner
Ferrara Fiorenza PC, PGCA Association Counsel
(315) 437-7600


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