This past December, President Biden signed into law two measures that expand the rights of pregnant and breastfeeding workers: the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers (PUMP) Act. Both Acts will impose new federal requirements on employers with respect to accommodations for pregnancy and childbirth-related conditions and nursing mothers.
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act – PWFA
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act gives workers with conditions arising from pregnancy or childbirth, the right to reasonable accommodations in the workplace. The Act provides for broader protections than are available to pregnant employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—it requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation for a known physical or mental condition related to, affected by, or arising out of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, regardless of whether the condition meets the definition of disability under the ADA. It also provides for broader protection than the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
The PWFA applies to employers with 15 or more employees, and to “qualified employees,” meaning an employee or job applicant who can perform the essential functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation.
Providing Urgent Maternal Protections – PUMP Act
The PUMP Act amends the Fair Labor Standards Act, expanding already-existing federal law requiring employers with 50 or more employees to provide accommodations—including breaks and a private, non-bathroom space—for breastfeeding workers to express milk. Under the Act, many workers not previously entitled to lactation accommodations (ie: salaried employees) are now covered.
The PUMP Act makes several important changes:
- Provides the right to break time and space to pump breast milk at work to millions of more workers.
- Requires employers to allow for reasonable breaks, each time an employee needs to express milk, for up to one year after the employee’s child is born.
- Makes it possible for workers to file a lawsuit to seek monetary remedies in the event that their employer fails to comply.
- Clarifies that pumping time must be paid if an employee is not completely relieved from duty.
The legislation went into effect immediately when it was signed, however, the enforcement provision included a 120-day delay, making the effective date for that provision April 28, 2023.
Important note for employers: Employees must notify their employers if they believe their employer is out of compliance with the PUMP Act, and must give their employer 10 days to come into compliance before making any claim of liability against their employer.