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Employment Law Update: Two New Laws Expand Federal Protections for Both Pregnant and Nursing Workers

Posted on May 15, 2023 by James Blankenship

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”) takes effect on June 27, 2023, and requires private employers with at least 15 employees to provide reasonable accommodations to their employees for pregnancy, childbirth, recovery, and related medical conditions, including lactation. Such reasonable accommodations may include flexible hours, additional break time, and/or light work activity and must be determined via a good faith discussion between the employer and the employee to determine what accommodations are appropriate. Covered employers are required to provide these accommodations unless they would cause an undue hardship, or significant difficulty or expense, for the employers.

The PWFA applies only to accommodations. The PWFA does not replace federal, state, or local laws that are more protective of workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. More than 30 states and cities – including Washington – have laws that provide accommodations for pregnant workers.

The Providing Urgent Material Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (“PUMP Act”), which in part took effect on December 29, 2022, expands employer obligations under the Fair Labor Standars Act (FLSA) to provide reasonable break time – and a clean, private space that is not a bathroom – for an employee to express breast milk for their nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time the employee has need to express the milk.

The PUMP Act almost entirely closes the coverage gap that left 1 in 4 women of childbearing age without federal protection of their right to break time and a private space to pump during the workday. Under the PUMP Act, nearly all employees, regardless of gender, are now covered. Employers of all sizes must comply, with the exception of employers with fewer than 50 employees who can show undue hardship. Further, effective April 28, 2023, the PUMP Act permits an employee the right to file a lawsuit for monetary remedies for an alleged violation.

If you have questions regarding the new PWFA or the PUMP Act, or need assistance updating your policies and practices or finding creative solutions for complying with these new laws, please contact a member of our Labor and Employment Team: