On Thursday, August 11, 2016, Mayor Bill De Blasio signed into law a bill requiring a variety of New York City facilities to provide a lactation room for nursing mothers. Facilities that now must provide a lactation room to the public include city job centers, the offices of the Administration for Children’s Services, and centers operated by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, among others. These rooms must be equipped with a chair, an electrical outlet, and access to running water.
This new law is intended to provide protection for women who are harassed or retaliated against for nursing their children or otherwise expressing breast milk. The law signed on Thursday complements several other laws passed by New York City protecting nursing women; two of the more significant existing laws are New York Civil Rights Law § 79, which protects a woman’s right to breastfeed in public, and New York State Labor Law § 206-c, which requires employers to provide time and space for nursing women to express milk. While New York State was at the vanguard on this issue when it passed the above laws in 1994 and 2007, respectively, federal law has since caught up; in 2010, Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (as part of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as “Obamacare”) to include a provision requiring employers to provide breaks and space for recent mothers to express breast milk.