NY Workers Also Have Breastfeeding Rights
February 12, 2019
By Jennifer Vorih, Esq. and Ty Hyderally, Esq.
As discussed in an earlier blog, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination was amended last year to explicitly include breastfeeding, expressing breast milk, and breastfeeding-related medical conditions. Workers in New York also have significant rights surrounding breastfeeding.
New York State Labor Law Section 206-c, which was enacted in 2007, requires that all employers in the State allow parents to take unpaid break time or use paid meal or break time to express breast milk at work. This requirement applies to employers of all sizes, regardless of the nature of their business. Also, under this law, employers are encouraged to provide a suitable space where employees can express milk in privacy. Further, the law bans employers from discriminating against employees for expressing breast milk at work.
In addition, since 2014, New York City workers — full-time or part-time, employees or independent contractors — have been able to rely on the New York City Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. This Act prohibits employers in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, or Queens, who have at least 4 employees, from discriminating against workers due to their being pregnant or having given birth recently. Employers are required to provide such workers reasonable accommodations to their work duties and schedules, such as time to express breast milk in a clean, private space. Employers must grant reasonable accommodations, unless they can show that a requested accommodation would cause an undue hardship or that the employee could not perform the essential requisites of her job even with the accommodation.
Despite these legal protections, Simone Teagle, a New York City police officer, is suing the NYPD for failing to provide her with breaks and a private, clean space to pump breast milk, and allowing officers to harass her for taking breaks to express milk to feed her baby. Teagle says that some of the places she was allowed to express milk were vile and unsanitary, and that because of the harassment she faced regularly, she did not pump as often as she needed to, and developed mastitis as a result.
Teagle filed suit against the City in October 2018. In addition, Teagle and four other officers filed a Class Charge of Discrimination last month with the New York State Division of Human Rights, against the New York Police Department. In their Charge, they allege that the NYPD and its agents, ‘‘have engaged in a pattern, practice and policy of failing and refusing to provide nursing mothers with reasonable break times and a proper location to express milk.’’ This Class Charge was instituted to toll the statute of limitations for the five charging parties as well as all other nursing mothers at the NYPD who face similar circumstances.
Perhaps these women in blue, by standing up for their rights, will help ensure that all New York workers can actually exercise their rights to breastfeed.
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