Two New Historic Federal Laws Provide Game-Changing Protections For Working Mothers

At the close of 2022, we reported on some key pending legislation that would help build better workplace cultures for families. We’re thrilled to report that two of those bills, the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) Act for Nursing Mothers and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), both passed! These bills represent historic progress and will establish nationwide, uniform protections for more new moms during their pregnancy and in the postpartum stage as they return to work. The PUMP Act is already in effect and the PWFA goes into effect this summer. For employers, that means it’s time to revisit policies to ensure you’re in compliance with these expanded protections. Here’s a look at the federal laws and what employers can expect. 

Professional woman smiling for Kin blog article

PUMP Act for Nursing Mothers

 The newly passed PUMP Act for Nursing Mothers mandates that employers of all sizes must provide nursing employees with private, non-bathroom spaces and break times to pump breast milk. The bill closed a loophole in the 2010 Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, which left one out of four women of childbearing age unprotected and subject to the whims of varying or non-existent state laws. Today, workers like teachers, nurses, agriculture workers, and several salaried and professional occupations, will now fall under this new umbrella of federal protections. 

Protections for employees include:

  • Protection for an additional 9 million workers for their right to break times and private space to pump breast milk. 
  • Clarification that pumping time must be paid if any work occurs.
  • The ability for workers to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division or to seek monetary remedies for noncompliance.

 Support for the PUMP bill was widespread and bipartisan. The bill received backing from more than 230 organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“The PUMP Act is the first standalone breastfeeding bill to receive a recorded vote on the House and Senate floors. The bill received incredible support from policymakers on both sides of the aisle, demonstrating that breastfeeding is truly a bipartisan issue,” said Cheryl Lebedevitch, Senior Policy and Communications Manager at the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee, a national coalition of organizations with a shared mission to create a landscape of breastfeeding support.  

What employers should know: 

  • The bill was signed into law December 29, 2022, and went into effect immediately.
  • It’s enforceable after 120 days on April 28, 2023.
  • Employers of all sizes are required to comply. 
  • The PUMP ACT does not extend the duration of protection (duration remains at one year following the birth of a child).
  • For certain rail carrier and motorcoach employees, there’s a 3-year delay before coverage is in effect. 
  • Airline flight employees (pilots and flight attendants) are not covered by the new law, but all other airline employees are covered.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)

The enactment of the PWFA marks another critical milestone for protecting maternal well-being, ensuring that women don’t have to choose between keeping their job and the health of their pregnancy. The PWFA gives pregnant and postpartum workers the right to reasonable accommodations to perform the essential functions of their jobs unless an employer can prove undue hardships. Mirroring the protections of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), the PWFA uses the same definitions of reasonable accommodations and undue hardship, and also requires that employers engage in an interactive process to meet a worker’s needs. 

Reasonable accommodations will vary by individual. Examples might include modifying existing facilities, changing a work schedule, transferring an employee to a less physically demanding position, and providing the time and space for a postpartum employee to pump breast milk, to name a few.

Protections for employees include:

  • Workers have a right to reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth recovery and related medical conditions, including lactation.
  • A pregnant or postpartum employee does not need to have a pregnancy-related disability to be eligible for an accommodation – this represents a major change to existing law.
  • The bill protects workers from any retaliation.

Ten years in the making, the PWFA is considered a landmark civil rights law for pregnant workers. The bill received bipartisan support, as well as support from more than 200 advocates, civil rights organizations and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Society for Human Resources Management.

What employers should know:

  • The PWFA was signed into law December 29, 2022, and takes effect June 27, 2023.
  • The law covers government employees and anyone employed at a private company with at least 15 employees.
  • As with ADA compliance, any requests for pregnancy-related accommodations will prompt an individual analysis followed by the implementation of reasonable accommodations.
  • The law extends to part-time, temporary and seasonal workers.

How Employers Can Prepare for the New Regulatory Landscape

  1. Since the PUMP Act is already in effect, at the minimum, employers need to promptly review their company policy for nursing mothers. If you’re not sure about your lactation accommodation policies, now is the time to revisit existing policies or create new protocols to provide the needed time and private space to pump.
  2. For compliance with the PWFA, employers with 15 or more employees will need to discuss and offer any reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers in the same way ADA compliance is handled. Reviewing policies internally now will prepare your company for when the bill goes into effect in June.
  3. Even if you already have robust policies for both pregnant and postpartum employees, take the time to update managers on the new federal laws and requirements.
  4. It’s also critical to balance a companywide policy with an individualized approach that takes into account any special circumstances and needs for pregnant or postpartum parents.
  5. Keep in mind that these new laws are in addition to whatever state mandates are already in place.

For expert counsel, take advantage of our many resources detailing how to develop accommodations for nursing employees. Kin also can work alongside you to navigate the changing legal landscape and implement turnkey, fully compliant lactation programs