Protecting Nursing Mothers in the Workplace: A Comprehensive Guide to the PUMP Act and Its Enforcement

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced that it will begin enforcing the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act) starting later this month. The PUMP Act amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and a 2010 law called Break Time for Nursing Mothers, which requires employers to provide reasonable breaks and private spaces for non-exempt employees to express breast milk.

The PUMP Act expands these rights to salaried and exempt workers who are lactating, making it easier for new mothers to continue breastfeeding when they return to work. The legislation is designed to promote better health for nursing mothers and their babies, increase productivity in the workplace, and reduce healthcare costs.

Companies with fewer than 50 employees can seek an exemption if compliance would cause undue hardship. The exemption might apply to small businesses that have limited resources, or to those that require employees to work in settings where it would be difficult to provide space for lactating workers. However, employers are still required to make every reasonable effort to provide breaks and private spaces for these employees.

The airline industry is provided with certain exemptions due to unique circumstances faced by employees who work on airplanes that may not allow for private spaces or breaks at regular intervals. However, these employees must have access to public restroom facilities to express breast milk.

The PUMP Act took effect immediately, but enforcement was delayed for 120 days, making the effective date April 28th. As the DOL gears up to begin enforcement later this month, the agency has released two new tools to help companies comply with the new law.

One of the tools is a fact sheet that provides detailed information for employers on covered employers, limited exemptions, break times, private spaces, compensation, and the rights of remote workers under the PUMP Act. The fact sheet also includes guidance for employees on how to request reasonable break times and private spaces for expressing breast milk.

According to the fact sheet, violations of the FLSA’s reasonable break time and space requirements may result in remedies limited to unpaid minimum or overtime wages. This means that employers who fail to provide reasonable break times or private spaces for lactating employees may be required to pay back wages owed to those employees.

The other tool released by the DOL is a compliance assistance guide that provides additional information on the provisions of the PUMP Act and how to comply with the new law. The guide also includes frequently asked questions and resources for employers and employees.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health also offers guidance on how to support lactating employees. Strategies for supporting lactating employees might include offering flexible work arrangements, providing access to lactation consultants or support groups, and promoting a culture of support for breastfeeding in the workplace.

Overall, the new law provides important protections for lactating workers, promotes better health outcomes for mothers and babies, and helps employers increase productivity and reduce healthcare costs. By providing tools for compliance and assistance, the DOL is helping to ensure that employers can meet the requirements of the law and support their employees’ overall health and well-being.

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