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Posted on January 24, 2023
The final week of 2022 saw President Joe Biden sign
two new laws that enhance protections for pregnant and nursing mothers in the workplace. The laws are the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act).
President Biden signed both laws on December 29. The PUMP Act took effect immediately, while the PWFA will go into effect in June 2023.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)
The PWFA will sound familiar to Massachusetts employers because significant portions of the law appear to be drawn from the 2018 Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Like the Massachusetts law, the new federal law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees in the workplace. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has up to two years to issue guidance on what reasonable accommodations during pregnancy mean.
Since Massachusetts employers are already familiar with the law, the biggest impact may come for Massachusetts employers’ out-of-state operations in states with fewer protections for pregnant and nursing employees. In those cases, the federal law may become the standard to which the employer must adhere. Massachusetts provides information on the state law with MCAD guidance and Frequently Asked Questions.
The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) Act
Since 2010, when the requirement of nursing breaks was added to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) via the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Act, it has been widely understood that employers must provide expressing milk breaks to non-exempt (hourly) employees. There was, however, some confusion as to whether the requirement applied to exempt employees.
The PUMP Act requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide reasonable break time for all employees to express breast milk as needed. The PUMP Act further clarifies that such breaks need not be paid unless the employee is still on the clock or “not completely relieved from duty” during those breaks. Employers should keep in mind that any break of 20 minutes or less must be paid according to the FLSA. Employers must also provide a clean and private space for nursing parents to express milk that is not the women’s restroom.
The US Department of Labor provides information available on the earlier law providing Break Time for Nursing Mothers.The guidance acknowledges the signing of the new law by the president and says that more information will be forthcoming. While expanding the law to include exempt employees, the law excludes or offers only limited coverage to certain categories of employers:
AIM members interested in learning more about these laws and the related state laws or other human resources issues may call the AIM Employer Hotline at 1-800-470-6277.