Client Alerts  - Labor and Employment May 17, 2024

New York State Budget Brings Changes to the Workplace

Written By: James R. Grasso

Three new updates to New York State labor laws.

Each year, the New York State budget negotiations are a time ripe for the governor and legislature to include substantive legislation as part of the budget negotiation process that might not otherwise be considered during the regular legislative session, and this year was no different. For employers, the recently enacted New York State budget for fiscal year 2025 includes a first-in-the-nation paid prenatal leave law, mandated paid lactation breaks, and a future repeal of the nation’s sole remaining paid COVID-19 leave law.

Paid Prenatal Leave

As a result of an amendment to New York’s Paid Sick Leave law (§ 196-b of the New York Labor Law), effective January 1, 2025, all pregnant employees in New York State will be entitled to 20 hours of paid leave during any 52-week calendar period to obtain health care services received during the pregnancy or related to the pregnancy. Covered health care services include physical examination, medical procedures, monitoring and testing, and discussions with a health care provider related to the pregnancy.

Paid prenatal leave may be taken in one-hour increments and must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay or the minimum wage, whichever is higher. Unused leave time is not required to be paid out upon separation from employment. Paid prenatal leave is in addition to the paid leave an employee is entitled to under the Paid Sick Leave law. Paid prenatal leave applies regardless of an employer’s size, and there is no waiting time or accrual period for employees to use the leave.

Paid Lactation Breaks

Effective June 19, 2024, New York Labor Law § 206-c will require employers to provide employees who wish to express breast milk for a nursing child with paid break time for 30 minutes “each time such employee has reasonable need to express breast milk.” Currently, employers are only required to provide unpaid break time. The law’s language that employees may take a 30-minute paid break “each time such employee has reasonable need to express breast milk” suggests that employees may be able to take more than one paid 30-minute break per day to express breast milk, but it is unclear whether the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) will interpret the law to allow that. In addition to the newly required 30-minute paid break time, employees retain the right to use existing paid break or meal time for time in excess of 30 minutes. Employees have the right to express breast milk in the workplace for up to three years after the birth of a child.

Employers should remember that § 206-c requires employers to: (1) provide a designated room for the expression of breast milk, other than a restroom or toilet stall, that is: (a) in close proximity to the work area, (b) well lit, (c) shielded from view, and (d) free from intrusion from other persons in the workplace or the public; and (2) provide to each employee upon hire and annually, and to employees returning to work following the birth of a child, the notice issued by the DOL informing employees of the right to express breast milk in the workplace. It is expected that the DOL will be updating the notice to reflect the new requirement to provide paid break time.

Repeal of COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave

Enacted in March 2020, the New York State COVID-19 Paid Leave law requires employers to provide leave, paid or unpaid depending on their size and net income, for employees who are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19. The governor’s initial budget proposed repealing the law on July 31, 2024, but after negotiations, the approved budget contains a provision that will repeal the law on July 31, 2025.

Our attorneys remain ready to provide advice and guidance on complying with these new laws or any other workplace issues. For further assistance, please contact any of the attorneys on our Labor and Employment Practice Team or the Phillips Lytle attorney with whom you have a relationship.

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