Many women who return to work after giving birth have questions about breastfeeding mothers in the workplace and laws that are in place to protect them against employment discrimination. Do you have the right to pump breast milk at work? There are both state and federal protections for nursing mothers. A fact sheet from the New York State Department of Health provides information about the rights of breastfeeding mothers going back to work under state law, while a fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) clarifies protections that exist under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
If you are a breastfeeding mother in New York, what should you know about protections against employment discrimination?
Protections Against Employment Discrimination Under New York Law
New York has a specific law that protection breastfeeding mothers from discrimination in the workplace. The law is NYS Labor Law Section 206-C Breastfeeding in the Workplace Accommodation Law. As the New York State Department of Health fact sheet highlights, under this law, “your employer cannot discriminate against you for choosing to breastfeed your baby or for pumping milk at work.” This law comes with certain guarantees for breastfeeding mothers, including:
- Right to pump breast milk at work for three years after giving birth;
- Right to use paid break or meal times, as well as reasonable unpaid break times, in order to pump breast milk;
- Right to request a private place to pump breast milk, and the expectation that the employer will attempt to accommodate that request;
- Right not to be discriminated against for choosing to pump milk at work; and
- Right not to be retaliated against for asserting rights to pump milk at work.
The fact sheet recommends that women who are planning to go on maternity leave have a conversation with their employers about what they will need when they return to work. Specifically, you might discuss the possibility of a private and convenient place for you to pump breast milk.
Federal Protections for Nursing Mothers
What federal protections exist for breastfeeding mothers when they return to work? There is no specific federal law that is analogous to the New York state law that attends precisely to workplace accommodations or protections for nursing mothers. However, Section 7 of the FLSA “requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time the employee has need to express the milk.”
The FLSA also requires that employers “provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
To be clear, these protections are part of protections surrounding break time under the FLSA.
Discuss Your Case with an Employment Discrimination Attorney in New York
It is important for breastfeeding mothers who are returning to work to know that there are laws in place to protect against employment discrimination and retaliation. If you have questions about your rights under New York state or federal law, an experienced employment discrimination lawyer in New York City can assist with your case. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar to learn more about the services we provide.