What is ‘The PUMP LAW’ and How Does It Bridge the ‘Gap’ For All Working Mothers Choosing to Breast Feed Their Newborn Babies?
Breastfeeding is always best. Breast milk has an infinity of health benefits for both moms and babies. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that breastfeeding is the key strategy to improve public health. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that all babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.
Most infants born in 2019, approximately 83.2 %, were reported to receive some breast milk. However, the most common reason for lactating mothers to stop breastfeeding their babies is the complaint of working in a work environment that does not support breastfeeding or offer an adequate place to pump their breasts.
The Break Time for Nursing Mother’s Law and All It’s Gaps
Workplace lactation laws are known to increase the breastfeeding rate. This allows nursing women to earn a living for their families, and emphasize that workplaces acknowledge women’s and men’s needs as essential. Federal Law requires that all workplaces provide reasonable break times for an employee to express milk for her nursing child. This is good for one year after birth each time such an employee needs to express milk. “The Break Time for Nursing Mother’s Law” was created in 2010 for all workplaces in the United States to allow for a reasonable break time and a private non-bathroom space for all lactating employees to pump milk during their workday.
However, the law contains several ‘gaps.’ More than 9 million women of childbearing age were not covered by the Federal Break Time for Nursing Mother’s Law. Around 27.6 million women workers of childbearing age in America need the basic protections all breastfeeding women need, including break time, space, and reasonable accommodations to stay healthy for breastfeeding.
According to an article in USA Today, Brian Dittmeier, senior public policy counsel for the National WIC Association, a nonprofit group that provides nutrition and education services to pregnant women and mothers, states:
“The original extension of protections in 2010, as part of the Affordable Care Act, was tied to the definition of employee in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA),” he said. The difference between those covered and not is “a distinction around overtime pay and eligibility. But no distinction applies to whether a worker needs access to a place to pump or not.”
The Gap: The Break Time for Nursing Law does not cover employees who qualified for overtime.
Nurses, nurse aides, teachers, farm workers, and various other lactating women in this category may have had to previously pump their breasts for breast milk in unusual and possibly unsanitary places like supply closets, bathrooms, and empty classrooms. Many may have even had to pump in their vehicles.
Breastfeeding should provide a feeling of relaxation. Many lactating mothers who had to pump their breast milk in unsanitary conditions would report a feeling of anxiety when pumping. The tension was mainly due to a lack of privacy and the fear of someone walking in on them while their breasts were exposed during pumping.
Exposed: Discrimination Against Breast Feeding In the Workplace
After giving birth, most women have six weeks of ‘disability,’ which is considered an average length of leave after delivery per the American Gynecological Association. A supportive work environment for lactating mothers to pump milk is vital for mothers to continue to breastfeed their babies. When lactating mothers were told they could have a space to pump, that space often turned out to be a public space and not a private one.
Breastfeeding discrimination includes:
- Denial of pump break requests from employees who are experiencing pain
- Terminating an employee for asking for a pump break
- Refusing to provide privacy, leaving workers to pump milk with their breast exposed to coworkers, clients, and the public in physically unsafe conditions.
- Commenting on an employee’s breasts, comparing breast feeding workers to animals and making animal sounds like mooing while they are breast feeding.
Over two-thirds of breastfeeding discrimination lawsuits have led to a breastfeeding employee’s job loss. Unfortunately, due to the gap in the law, these employees could not take their employers to court for monetary compensation.
The PUMP Act
The “Providing Urgent Maternal Protections to Nursing Mothers (PUMP) Act” passed the House in October of 2022. The PUMP Act amends the coverage gaps in the previous Break Time for Nursing Mother’s Law. It ensures all women can access private nursing or pumping spaces at work.
Unfortunately, the law does not apply to flight attendants and crewmembers. There are specific rules that apply to rail carriers and motor coaches.
The law also:
– Allows employees to file lawsuits against an employer who violates the law.
– Expands the legal right to receive pumping and private space to 9 million women. That include nurses, teachers, farm workers, and many other women.
– Defines and explains that pumping time also counts as work time when minimum wage and overtime pay if the employee is not relieved from work duties.
Employers of all sizes must provide break time and a private, clean environment for lactating women to pump. The law covers employers with less than 50 employees and must provide break times and space. If an employer claims an ‘undue hardship,’ meaning that the time and space needed for the PUMP Act would cause significant difficulty or expense, they could be excused from complying with the law.
What Can You Do If An Employer Does Not Follow The PUMP ACT?
File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD)Contact free helplines from centers from Work Law
- Contact free helplines from centers from Work Law
- Employees may choose to file a lawsuit against their employer.
State and Local Laws
Workers nationwide are protected under the PUMP ACT. Additional protections provided under state and local laws remain in effect and do not change under the PUMP Act.