The PUMP Act is Now in Effect: Are You Ready?
The past year brought a tremendous shift in expanded protections for breastfeeding employees. The new PUMP Act, signed into law at the end of 2022, became enforceable as of the end of April. Consequently, we’re fielding a lot of questions from employers about how to comply with these workplace lactation rights. For the past four years, Medela has already been helping companies exceed the standards set forth in the new federal law – with its Kin program featuring dedicated workplace offerings and a team of experts in this space. We’ve learned that lactation compliance is not only achievable and affordable, but it’s a powerful retention tool in creating a family-friendly workplace culture.
The PUMP Act: 9 Million More Working Women Are Protected
The new Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act was signed into law on December 29, 2022 and expands the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, adding breastfeeding protections for an additional 9 million working women of childbearing age in the United States. The law closes a gap by extending coverage to exempt employees, who were previously excluded from federal protections, and requires that employers of all sizes must provide nursing workers with private, non-bathroom spaces and reasonable break times to pump breast milk.
Compliance for Lactation Break Times under the PUMP Act
- Employees must be able to take a pumping break any time they need to during the course of their workday.
- The number of breaks may not be limited by the employer.
- Employees must be allowed to use any existing paid or unpaid breaks, but cannot be required to use those existing breaks.
- Employers cannot mandate the length of a pumping break, and must include time for the employee to get to the space, set up and clean up.
- If employees conduct any work at all during a pumping break, that time must be paid and counts toward overtime calculations for non-exempt employees.
- Employers cannot force employees to work during their break.
- If the employee is relieved of all duties, then the break can be unpaid.
Compliance for Lactation Spaces under the PUMP Act
- A private, functional space must be provided for the purpose of expressing breast milk. This space must be available to lactating employees any time they need it.
- The space must be shielded from view – including cameras or other surveillance – and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.
- The space MUST NOT be a bathroom.
Employee Coverage under the PUMP Act
- All types of workers are covered, including off site, remote, mobile or traveling.
- The law applies to employers of any size. The only exception: Employers with fewer than 50 employees (total, across all locations) if they can prove ‘undue hardship.’
- There’s a three-year delay for certain motorcoach and railway employees, who gain protection on December 29, 2025.
- Airline flight crew members (pilots and flight attendants) are not protected under the PUMP Act.
Remediation: Employee Rights under the PUMP Act
- Employees can file a complaint with the Department of Labor and/or privately sue their employer for non-compliance with the PUMP Act.
- For violations of the private space requirement, employees must first notify their employer of any issues, and wait 10 days before filing a complaint or lawsuit. Any other violations do not require a notification.
- Remedies or monetary damages may include, but are not limited to, employment, reinstatement, promotion, payment of lost wages or other economic losses, emotional distress, attorneys’ fees and lawsuit costs, and punitive damages.
- Retaliation against any lactating employee is strictly prohibited.
State Laws May Be More Stringent than the PUMP Act
- The PUMP Act establishes a new ‘floor’ or baseline set of protections across the entire country. Any state laws that go beyond the federal law – such as adding protections for additional groups of people (e.g., students), longer durations (e.g., up to two years post birth), or setting standards for lactation spaces – apply in addition to the federal baseline.
- For a listing of breastfeeding laws by state, check out this guide from our partners at Mamava.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the PUMP Act
What kind of support did the bill receive?
Support for the PUMP Act was bipartisan. More than 230 organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Academy of Pediatrics, advocated for its passage.
Why was the law necessary?
The bill closed a significant coverage gap 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 who need to pump at work will now receive federal protections.
Where can I find a copy of the law to share with our legal department?
You can read the PUMP Act legislation here.
Does the law say anything about how many lactation spaces you need?
The law does not specify how many lactation spaces an employer needs. The National Institute of Health guidelines recommend one space for every 100 female employees or six spaces per 1,000 female employees.
Can one space accommodate more than one pumping employee?
Yes, if the space is large enough and you can still offer privacy for each employee. Screens or hanging curtains can be used to divide a space into stations. The key is that the space must be available whenever a worker needs it.
How long are employers required to provide support under the PUMP Act?
The law offers protection for one year following the birth of a child. It’s important to note that your state laws may offer further protections past the one-year mark, especially in light of the American Academy of Pediatrics extending the recommended duration for breastfeeding from 1 year to 2 years or longer.
Does the lactation space need to have a door that closes and locks – is this required by the new law?
While a locked door is preferred, it’s not required by law. However, the space must be private and free from intrusion from co-workers or the public. For example, if you’re using a wellness room that’s open to everyone, you would need to ensure that it was available for pumping whenever needed, and you could add screens or privacy curtains to create a private station.
What happens if there is an intrusion for a pumping employee?
It’s the employer’s responsibility to remedy the situation and ensure that it doesn’t happen again. This burden does not fall on the employee.
Are there rules about how far away a lactation space can be from an employee?
No, the law does not specify anything about distance. But an employee also can’t be penalized (e.g. assigning the employee a different job) for taking too long if the distance adds a significant amount of time to the break session.
Regarding break times, are there ways an employer can be compliant while still encouraging efficient break times?
Yes, employers can take a number of steps to help busy moms manage their pumping sessions. Open communication to assess needs is the first step. The frequency and duration of pumping sessions can vary greatly by individual, and can change over time. Having a lactation space that’s thoughtfully designed and welcoming will allow a parent to relax and experience a better pumping session. Providing a hospital-grade, multi-user pump can help express milk more efficiently and also reduces the set up/break down time of an employee having to bring a pump back and forth. Another great option is for employers to sponsor a wearable, hands-free pump, which gives an employee even more freedom and options to meet their pumping goals. (See next question for more tips.)
Are employers required to outfit the lactation space a certain way?
No, the law does not require that the space or room have specific features. However, the more functional the space, the better. Some helpful features would include a power source for a breast pump, comfortable seating, sink, refrigerator, microwave for sanitizing, lactation accessories and a multi-user pump. Visit here for more tips on how to make a lactation space highly functional on a budget.
Who enforces the PUMP Act law?
The Department of Labor handles any complaints and enforces the law.
Is there a grace period for compliance?
The grace period has passed and the law is now fully enforceable as of April 28, 2023.
What constitutes undue hardship – what are instances where an employer would not be required to provide a lactation space?
Employers with fewer than 50 employees may not be required to provide the break time and a lactation space if they can prove doing so causes an undue hardship related to company size, financial resources and structure of the business. Keep in mind the burden is high for employers to establish undue hardship. Consult with your HR and legal advisors if you need to explore an undue hardship exception, or to develop creative compliance solutions.
Are employees required to notify you before filing a complaint?
Under the PUMP Act, employees are to notify their employer for any concerns or violations surrounding the private space requirement. If the employer confirms they will fix the problem, then the employee must wait 10 days before filing a complaint or lawsuit. If the employer makes it clear they do not intend to remediate the issue(s), the employee may file right away. For all other PUMP Act violations, the employee is not required to provide any notification.
What if your state law is different from the federal PUMP Act law?
It’s important to remember that the PUMP Act is outlining the bare minimum required. Employers are required to follow both federal and state laws. In some cases, a state law may offer even more protections. In California, for example, employers are required to have a written lactation accommodation policy. The state also requires that a lactation space be “in close proximity” to where an employee works and must include a space to sit and a surface for a breast pump.
Is there other federal legislation that applies to nursing employees?
Yes, the newly passed Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which takes effect June 27, 2023, states that workers have a right to reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, postpartum recovery and related medical conditions, which includes lactation. Accommodations will vary by individual, but examples might include modifying existing facilities, changing a work schedule and providing the time and space to pump breast milk, to name a few.
More Resources to Help You Comply with the PUMP Act
Fortifying your lactation benefits to align with the PUMP Act is an opportunity to send a clear signal to new parents that they’re valued and supported. Our experts have assembled more resources to decipher what the new law might mean for your organization and how to take your lactation offerings to the next level.
- Kin Program - Resources, consultation and lactation solutions that fully leverage your limited resources and assist your compliance efforts.
- Laying the Groundwork for Compliant Lactation Spaces - Not sure where to start? Check out the first in our two-part series providing a comprehensive guide for employers.
- Creating Welcoming, Compliant Lactation Spaces - Part two offers practical tips on how to resourcefully turn your lactation space into a company asset.
- Department of Labor – Fact sheets and info on how to file a complaint.
- Center for WorkLife Law - Nonprofit organization offering an explainer for employers.