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Lactation Law Update: New York and Illinois

Recent developments require employers to reevaluate their lactation and nursing policies and practices to ensure that they are in compliance with newly enacted local laws in New York City and Illinois.

Changes to New York City Lactation Laws: Effective March 17, 2019

Since 2007, New York City employers with four or more employees have been required to provide reasonable unpaid break time (or to allow an employee to use paid break/meal time) to express breast milk in the workplace, for up to three years following the birth of a child, and to make reasonable efforts to provide a room, other than a restroom, to express milk in private.

Additional lactation-related obligations for New York City employers with four or more employees go into effect on March 17, 2019. For example, by that date, a covered employer must provide lactating employees with a sanitary “lactation room,” which is not a restroom, and which has, at minimum, an electrical outlet, a chair, a surface on which to place a breast pump and other personal items, and nearby access to running water. The lactation room must be made available to the employee for lactation purposes only when it is needed (and notice to other employees regarding the same is required), and a refrigerator and the room itself must be in “reasonable proximity” to the employee’s work area.

Notably, the required lactation room must be provided unless the employer can establish an “undue hardship,” in which case the employer must engage in a cooperative dialogue with the employee to determine alternative accommodations and issue a final written determination to the employee that identifies any accommodation(s) that were granted or denied.

In addition, by March 17, 2019, a covered employer in New York City must implement a written lactation room accommodation policy, which states that employees have the right to request a lactation room and identifies the process (as outlined in the Administrative Code) by which an employee may request a lactation room. All new employees must receive the lactation room policy upon hire.

Changes to Illinois’s Lactation Law: Effective August 2018

Like many employers in New York, Illinois employers with five or more employees have been required, since 2001, to provide employees with reasonable unpaid break time to express breast milk, in an appropriate room that is not a toilet stall.

Effective August 2018, the Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act was amended. Now, Illinois employers with at least five employees must provide “reasonable break time” each time an employee needs to express breast milk, for up to one year following the child’s birth. While the break time “may” run concurrently with any other break time, the employee’s pay cannot be reduced due to the time spent expressing milk or nursing a baby – meaning, in effect, that any additional break time needed to express milk or nurse must be paid. Further, covered employers in Illinois who do not provide the requisite break time must show, if challenged, that providing the breaks is an “undue hardship” – a heightened burden than that previously imposed under the Act.

Employers should act quickly to ensure full compliance with all of the requirements of the new lactation laws.

© 2019 Vedder Price

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About this Author

Elizabeth N. Hall, Vedder Price Law Firm, Labor Employment Attorney
Shareholder

Elizabeth N. Hall is a shareholder  in the firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Area.  Her experience includes defending employers before state and federal courts and administrative agencies in all types of individual employee and class action labor and employment litigation including equal employment opportunity, wrongful and retaliatory discharge and wage and hour issues.  Ms. Hall has successfully argued procedural and employment discrimination issues in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and has particular expertise managing electronic discovery in complex...

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Grace Urban Chicago Employment Lawyer Vedder Price
Associate

Grace L. Urban is an Associate in the Chicago office of Vedder Price and a member of the firm’s Labor & Employment group.

Ms. Urban represents employers in a variety of labor and employment and employee benefits matters, including claims under Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. She also counsels lawyers on all aspects of employment law.

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Haley Tynes, Vedder Price Law Firm, New York, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney
Associate

Haley P. Tynes is an Associate in the New York office of Vedder Price and a member of the firm’s Litigation and Labor & Employment practice groups.

Ms. Tynes represents businesses in a variety of labor and employment matters, and advises employers in the litigation of employment disputes.

Prior to joining Vedder Price, Ms. Tynes worked as a Business and Securities Fraud intern at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and as a Judicial Intern to the...

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