Oh Mama! Federal Changes You Need to Know for Pregnant, Breastfeeding, and Postpartum Employees
Published: February 8, 2023
The PUMP Act
The PUMP Act, signed into law on December 29, 2022, is a new federal law applicable to employers with over 50 employees, that increases the requirements for employers of breastfeeding employees under the FLSA. It is important that employers ensure they are abiding both by this new federal law, and also by any parallel state law. California, for example, already had laws regarding requirements for breastfeeding employees (Cal. Lab. Code §§1030-1033), which apply to all employers, including employers with under 50 employees. For the most part, the PUMP Act simply brings the federal minimum standard to a similar base-line of protections.
The PUMP Act affected the following changes on a federal scale:
- Provides the right to “reasonable break time” in “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk” for the employee to pump breast milk at work.
- Pumping rights are extended up to one year after the birth of the child.
- Pump time must now be paid time if the employee is not completely relieved from duty or if the employee pumps during an otherwise paid break period. Previously, pumping time was unpaid and considered “off-the-clock” time. Now, if the mother can work while pumping, the time has to be considered work time, which must be paid.
- All employees, including salaried workers, are now included in these laws. The previous law in effect only applied to non-exempt employees, and not salaried employees.
- Workers may file suit for monetary remedies if their employer fails to comply.
The Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act
The Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act (“PWFA”), which goes into effect on June 27, 2023, is a new federal law, which, similar to the PUMP Act, brings the federal minimum requirements closer to those of California’s existing laws for mothers. For example, in California, employees may be entitled to leave or reasonable accommodations through Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL), leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), or additional, local protections or paid leaves (e.g., SFPPLO).
Under the PWFA, on a federal scale, pregnant and postpartum employees will now be eligible for reasonable accommodations that would help the employee perform the job. This could include flexible hours, a work-from-home arrangement, extra breaks, leaves of absence, additional time to finish work, or tools and equipment that could provide a reasonable accommodation to the mother.
Previously, under federal law, pregnant or postpartum employees had to have a qualified disability to have access to reasonable accommodations or leaves, meaning they had to show proof of symptoms beyond general pregnancy symptoms. Now, morning sickness, exhaustion, back pain, or similar pregnancy symptoms will make an employee eligible for such reasonable accommodations.