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The New York Human Rights Law (Executive Law section 296) has long protected “pregnancy-related conditions.” However, its applicability to lactation accommodations has been questionable; the state Department of Labor, for example, does not cite the Human Rights Law in its guidance on the subject.

However, both houses of the Legislature have passed a bill (A.5975 / S.4211) to expand the definition of “pregnancy-related conditions” include lactation. The change was included in the executive budget proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is expected to sign the bill.

If the bill becomes law, refusal to reasonably accommodate a nursing employee-mother’s need to express milk at the work place would constitute an unlawful practice, and such employees would be granted the same protections under the law afforded to employees with known disabilities. (The Human Rights Law conditions the employer’s provision of such accommodations on whether or not it would impose an undue hardship on the employer, requiring the consideration of the employer’s overall size, budget, type of operation, workforce structure, and nature and cost of the accommodation.)

Notably, should this bill become law, employees refused nursing accommodations would have a private right of action to sue their employers under the Human Rights Law.

– Joanna M. Caccavo Jaspan Schlesinger, LLP