The United States PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act
by Anne Eglash MD, IBCLC, FABM
What is the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, and how does it differ from the 2010 Break Time for Nursing Mothers Act?
The US Congress passed the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act on December 29, 2022.
Prior to the PUMP Act, the 2010 Break Time for Nursing Mothers Act gave hourly employees the right to take lactation breaks during work. Employers were required to provide reasonable break times and private, non-bathroom spaces for lactating employees to pump. However, approximately 25% of lactating individuals were not covered by the Break Time Law, particularly salaried employees.
The PUMP Act expands the right to pump breaks in appropriate spaces for nearly all lactating workers. The PUMP Act, which goes into effect April 28th, 2023, also makes it possible for an employee to file a lawsuit against their employer when the law is violated.
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- The PUMP Act does not apply to flight attendants or pilots.
- The PUMP Act only covers those who identify as mothers.
- There is a 3-year delay for railway workers and motorcoach service operators.
- Pumping time counts as time worked if the employee is not completely relieved from their work duties during the pumping break.
- The PUMP Act only applies to employers with more than 50 employees.
- The PUMP Act provides protections for lactating employees for 2 years following the birth of the child.
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The PUMP Act for Nursing Mothers, a step in the right direction, covers employees regardless of their gender. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are still covered under this law, although they may be excused from complying when providing the required break time and space would impose an ‘undue hardship’, which is expected to be very rare.
The Act provides protection for pump breaks in a clean private non-bathroom space for one year after the birth of the child, not 2 years, despite the fact that nearly all medical professional societies recommend breastfeeding for 2 years.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is also new legislation effective June 27, 2023. It provides additional protections for all lactating employees, including flight attendants and pilots who are not covered by the PUMP Act, as it guarantees a right to reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions such as lactation. Reasonable lactation accommodations include break times along with clean private non-bathroom spaces for milk expression.
A few issues are not addressed by the PUMP Act. Some lactating workers are at risk for loss of benefits if their paid hours drop below the requirement needed to retain benefits. The PUMP Act also does not address the use of wearable pumps while working without a break, although using wearable pumps should be considered a reasonable accommodation as defined by the Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act. All comments on these legislative changes are welcome!