New protections for women in the workplace

Recently, we discussed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), a new federal law that expands the rights of pregnant women in the workplace. In this blog post, we will go into more detail about another new federal law that protects the rights of nursing mothers when they are at work.

The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act, known as the PUMP Act, went into effect April 28 of this year. It is aimed at providing nursing mothers the right to express breastmilk while they are at work using a breast pump.

Many women workers have to do this in bathrooms, their cars or in an unused office at their workplace. Many have had to do this during unpaid breaks.

How the previous law fell short

Some workers already had this right under the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, but the FLSA did not cover all workers. Many occupations, such as teaching, fell outside the scope of the FLSA.

Even for those who were covered under the law, the FLSA did not provide them with a right to take legal action against an employer who infringed upon their rights. This meant the previous version of the law was essentially unenforceable.

Expanded protection

The PUMP Act expands the number of workers covered under the FLSA’s protections. The majority of employers now must provide “reasonable break time” to employees who are nursing mothers for up to a year after the birth of their child. They must also provide these employees with a private area other than a bathroom in which to pump breastmilk. This area must be free from intrusion by coworkers or the public. Moreover, the PUMP Act provides that, if the worker is not relieved from work duty during this time, pumping time should be counted as work time for the purposes of calculating minimum wage or overtime.

The PUMP Act also puts some enforcement power behind these protections. Workers now have the right to file a lawsuit against an employer who has violated their rights under the law or retaliated against them for exercising their rights.

Although the PUMP Act covers many workers who were previously unprotected, it doesn’t cover everyone. The law applies only to employers engaged in interstate commerce who do at least $500,000 in annual business. Employers are excused from their obligations under the act if compliance would impose an undue hardship. Certain very small employers may be exempt, as are certain types of jobs.

Still, the good news is that the PUMP Act protects many workers, allowing them the opportunity to provide their infants with breastmilk while keeping their employment. It also gives them the right to stand up for themselves when employers trample their rights. If you need legal guidance, call Alan C. Olson & Associates.


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