Senator Flanagan Successful In Effort To Protect Rights Of Mothers In The Workplace

John J. Flanagan

August 28, 2007

Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District), a member of the Senate Labor Committee, announced today that legislation he sponsored to protect working mothers has been signed into law by Governor Eliot Spitzer. The new law, which is effective immediately, requires employers to permit nursing mothers to express breast milk during the working day.

According to the web site Baby Center, expressing breast milk is the act of squeezing milk from a new mother’s breasts, either by hand or through the use of a pump. It is the only way, apart from actual breast feeding, for mother’s to release milk. Once the milk is extracted, it can be stored in bottles or containers for later use.

Senator Flanagan’s legislation calls on employers to provide unpaid break time and to make a reasonable effort to afford privacy to their female employees to express milk when they are away from their newborn children. The law also protects working mothers from being discriminated against while exercising their right to express breast milk.

These rights would be protected by the new law for up to three years after the birth of a child.
The ability to produce and store breast milk is important to working mothers who choose to breast feed their children. According to Senator Flanagan’s legislation, a new mother’s milk will begin to harden and cause pain and discomfort if the ability to express is unavailable. If a mother goes for a prolonged period of time without expressing milk, she loses the ability to breast feed her children.

Liz Watson of the New York City Bar Association's Sex and Law Committee said: "This law is a win-win for businesses and families. Businesses win because employees who are new parents will miss work less often and have lower health care costs because breastfed babies are healthier. Families win because mothers will not have to quit breastfeeding when they return to work. The New York City Bar Association applauds Governor Spitzer, Senator Flanagan, Assemblywoman Destito and the mothers around New York State for their work to pass this important legislation that will benefit New York's children."

This new law follows several court cases that have declared that the right of an employee to express breast milk during work hours was not covered under federal or state laws. This lead Senator Flanagan to work with Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito (116th Assembly District) to push for this important change.

"Where our current laws fail to protect individuals in the workplace, the state has a responsibility to step in and correct these deficiencies," stated Senator Flanagan. "Those mothers who choose to work outside their home have become an integral part of our economy and our laws need to respect their rights. This critically important legislation will enable these mothers to raise and provide for their families in an accepting workplace environment without fear of discrimination."