New Federal Law Protecting Breast-Feeding Employees

In December of 2022, President Biden signed into law the “Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act,” or “PUMP Act,” for short.  This bill expanded the protections for nursing mothers initially established in the 2010 “Break Time for Nursing Mother’s Act.”  The 2010 legislation gave breast-feeding employees designated breaktime to express milk for their infants.  The PUMP Act expands the population of employees entitled to designated break time under federal law and, for the first time, federal law requires employers to provide a private space for employees to pump.

Under the law, break time is available to eligible employees for a minimum of one year after giving birth.  The private area employers are required to provide to express break milk must be out of the view of other coworkers and the public at large.  A public bathroom will not satisfy the requirements under this law.  There must be an actual designated area or room for an employee to use during business hours.  An employer is permitted to use a temporary space in order to comply with the requirements of the law. 

Some employers may find this requirement more difficult to meet than others and human resource professionals may need to develop creative solutions.  An employer who can designate a temporary office as a private area for a breast-feeding employee’s use is ideally situated.  Other employers who do not have the space to do this may want to consider alternative options such as portable pumping stations, privacy screens, or partnering up with other offices or businesses in the same area to designate a dedicated private space.   

The PUMP Act applies to all employees, not just non-exempt employees.  However, if your business has less than fifty (50) employees, you may be able to rely on a small employer exemption if you can demonstrate that compliance with the PUMP Act would cause significant expense you.  

Be aware that, starting in April 2023, the PUMP Act gives employees almost immediate legal recourse for violations.  If an employer violates the break time requirement or declines to provide a private place to pump, the employer has 10 days to cure the violation or the employee can immediately file a lawsuit. 

Employers may want to discuss the PUMP Act’s requirements with counsel to ensure compliance and determine whether this federal law or existing state laws apply to their businesses and employees.  New York and New Jersey employers may find that they are already in compliance due to pre-existing state laws.