On December 29, 2022, President Biden signed a bipartisan bill that expanded protections for pregnant and nursing employees through 2 new laws: The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)
The PWFA requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. It additionally prohibits employment practices that discriminate against qualified employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or any other relative medical conditions.
The act makes it unlawful for employers to take any of the following actions if an employee is affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or any other related medical conditions:
- Refuse reasonable accommodations
- Require the employee to accept an accommodation rather than a reasonable accommodation agreed upon between the employee and employer
- Deny employment opportunities to the employee based on the need to make reasonable accommodations
- Require the employee to take leave whether paid or unpaid
- Punish the employee in any form as a result of them requesting a reasonable accommodation
The PUMP Act expands existing protections under federal law, which already requires employers to provide nursing mothers break times to express breast milk. This act also requires an adequate and private space for the mothers to do so other than a bathroom.
It is recommended that employers take the following steps and information into account to ensure compliance with the PUMP Act:
- Educate managers on the law’s requirements to guarantee employees are not improperly denied breaks or proper accommodations
- Determine whether breaks will be paid or unpaid. Employers must provide breaks as often as the employee needs to express milk, and while federal law allows for unpaid breaks, state or local laws might require paid breaks. Make sure the policy is consistently applied to all employees.
- Evaluate workspace to ensure that appropriate and private accommodations other than a bathroom are available for an employee to pump milk.
- Circulate any updated policies to all employees.