Care Giver Rights and Discrimination

Mandatory Break Time For Nursing Mothers

Since March 2010, federal law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide nursing mothers break time to express milk for her child for up to one year after the child’s birth. Employers must provide a space that is shielded from view and free from intrusion. The law specifically requires that the space provided not be a bathroom. Break time for nursing is unpaid unless the employer provides for other paid breaks.

New York State law provides even greater protection to nursing mothers. Section 206-c of the New York Labor Law provides that all public and private employers in New York State, regardless of the size or nature of the business, must provide unpaid breaks during each working day to employees who are nursing mothers for the purpose of expressing breast milk for up to three years after the birth of the child. All employers are required to make reasonable efforts to provide a private location. Bathrooms and bathroom stalls are not appropriate lactation locations under the law. Employers may be liable if they discriminate against any employee who exercises her right to express milk at work.

Caregiver Discrimination

It is illegal for employers to take adverse employment actions against employees with care-giving responsibilities if those actions are based on stereotypes instead of the employee’s work performance or other non-discriminatory factors.

Gender stereotypes can be the basis of discriminatory employment decisions that effect both women and men. For example, an employer that fires a woman with young children because she is viewed as being less committed to her job, whether her care-giving responsibilities actually effect her job performance or not, may be liable for gender discrimination. A man who requests a leave of absence to care for a new child or a sick parent may be illegally denied the leave or retaliated against for making the request if his employer believes that men are not suitable caregivers.

Employees who face discrimination because of their care-giving responsibilities should consult with an experienced employment lawyer who can help them obtain fair treatment and compensation for economic and other losses.