The PUMP Act Now Has Bite as Its Enforcement Provision Goes Into Effect
As a follow-up to our January 10, 2023 Legal Alert, the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (“PUMP”) for Nursing Mothers Act (the “Act”) is now one step closer to being fully implemented. As a recap, the landmark legislation went into partial effect when it was signed into law on December 29, 2022, closing loopholes in earlier legislation (the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law enacted in 2010) that left one in four women of childbearing age not covered. The Act: (1) provides millions more workers (including teachers and nurses) the right to break time and space to pump breast milk; (2) provides a mechanism for workers to file a lawsuit to seek monetary damages in the event that their employer fails to comply; and (3) clarifies that pumping time must be paid. While the Act extends protections to many women left unprotected by earlier legislation, some categories of workers are still excluded (such as pilots and flight attendants). Of note, there is a three (3) year delay in the implementation of the protections for railway workers, and employers with fewer than 50 employees may be able to avoid complying with the Act if they can demonstrate that providing the requisite breaks and space would present an undue hardship for the business.
As of last month, the Act reached a new milestone – workers can now hold their employers liable for failing to comply with the Act’s mandates. As pointed out in our Legal Alert, the Act’s enforcement provision included a 120-day delay, which expired on April 18, 2023. The Act requires that nursing employees provide employers notice of an alleged violation, giving them 10 days to cure. If employers refuse to cure, the Act now provides that workers have a legal recourse for holding employers accountable. This newly operative provision gives the Act some bite and hopefully provides assurances to workers that compliance is not optional. Historically, the United States has not provided new mothers and young families the protections and assistance offered in similarly-situated countries, and while universal paid parental leave is the penultimate goal, the Act is an extremely important step on the way to this final destination. As The 19th points out: “[i]n the past several years, a formula shortage, a national push for expanded child care policies, and a mass exodus of women from the workforce have all drawn public awareness to just how little the United States has done to support caregivers at work. The PUMP Act is designed to build in the protections that many argue should have been there all along for parents who nurse, particularly mothers. Now the country is realizing, [Sascha Mayer, cofounder and chief executive officer at Mamava] said, that ‘it’s very costly to have a society that doesn’t support families. It’s costly for employers, it’s costly for the economy.’” This Act, and its enforcement provision, is a huge win for breastfeeding mothers in the workforce.
As an employer, if you have any questions regarding the PUMP Act and how it could impact your business, please contact a member of Griesing Mazzeo Law's Employment team.