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Protections for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers in the Workplace

The Biden administration recently enacted new protections for pregnant and nursing mothers in the workplace. Although there are already some federal and various state laws around protecting pregnant and/or nursing mothers, the two new laws help fill in some of the gaps in the existing laws to ensure the rights of women in the workplace.

The general overview of the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is outlined below, but it is important to understand what this means for your small business and help you take the appropriate steps.

The PUMP Act – This is the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act that went into effect April 28, 2023. This regulation applies essentially to all employers. The main purpose of the act is to protect nursing mothers’ rights to a scheduled break time and a private space (that is not a bathroom) to be able to express breast milk when needed while working. This regulation applies for up to 1 year after the child’s birth. Although a federal law shouldn’t be required to ensure mothers who need to feed their children have a safe and clean space as well as the available time without punishment or fear of punishment, yet unfortunately it is needed.

a. This law is governed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) through the Department of Labor. The FLSA applies to most employers so it’s important to understand how this may be applicable to your business. Additional information about the act and the applicability to your small business can be found here. One thing to keep in mind is that even if the FLSA doesn’t apply to your small business, it may still cover individual employees.

b. With the new PUMP Act, there is also an updated FLSA Posting that employers are required to have and make available to all employees. It must be posted either in a physical office breakroom, other common area or in a virtual shared drive, HR system or other accessible electronic form for remote/hybrid workers. The new poster can be found here. It can be downloaded and printed or saved electronically.

PWFA – The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is effective June 27. 2023 and applies to employers with 15 or more employees. This law is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and aligns with already existing laws and protections under Title VII which make it illegal to terminate or discriminate against people because of pregnancy, childbirth, or medically related conditions. The PWFA expands the protections for a worker’s limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions by requiring covered employers to provide a “reasonable accommodation” unless those accommodation would cause the employer an “undue hardship”. The process of identifying reasonable accommodation is an interactive process that should be managed carefully and fully to ensure all options have been vetted and discussed. An employer cannot arbitrarily say that a requested accommodation is an undue hardship without showing how and why.

a. More information about the PWFA and how it applies to your small business can be found here.

b. For companies that are covered under FMLA (50 or more in 75 mile radius), there is an updated and required FMLA poster that includes information about the PWFA that can be found here.

As a side note – all required federal posters are available through the Department of Labor for FREE. Do not let a company tell your small business that you must pay hundreds of dollars for these posters. Correspondingly, all state required posters are also free through each state’s labor website.

As it relates to the PUMP Act and the PWFA, be sure to update your company’s Employee Handbook with these new regulations as well as identifying how the company will support pregnant and nursing mothers. Now is the time to have this process in place and be prepared, not only to be compliant with the law, but also because it’s the right thing to do.

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