Two new federal laws were recently enacted that expand workplace protections for employees who are pregnant and for women who have given birth. These laws apply to most employers in every state.
Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)
Effective June 27, 2023
Under this law, employers with 15 or more employees are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation will cause undue hardship to the company.
While the reasonableness of each accommodation request will be individually assessed, possible accommodations include allowing the individual to:
- Sit while working.
- Drink water during the workday.
- Receive closer-in parking.
- Have flexible hours.
- Receive appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel.
- Receive additional break time to use the bathroom, eat and rest.
- Take time off to recover from childbirth.
- Be excused from strenuous activities and/or activities that involve exposure to compounds deemed unsafe during pregnancy.
Depending on the nature of the accommodation, employers may ask the individual to submit a statement from a health care provider substantiating the need for the accommodation.
Employers are required to post a revised poster, Know Your Rights: Workplace Discrimination is Illegal.
PUMP Act (Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers)
Effective December 29, 2022
Under this law, nursing employees are entitled to reasonable breaks to express breast milk for their nursing child for one year after the child’s birth. Employers must provide a place, other than a bathroom, which is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by the employee to express breast milk.
There is no maximum number of breaks, so nursing employees are entitled to take as many as needed that day. The frequency, duration, and timing of breaks are not the same for each person. Remote workers are entitled to take lactation breaks on the same basis as if they were working onsite.
When non-exempt employees take nursing breaks during their regular paid breaks, this is paid time. Nursing breaks taken in addition to regular paid breaks are unpaid time as long as employees are relieved of work duties during this time. Exempt employees receive their full weekly salary, regardless of pumping breaks.
Companies with fewer than 50 employees can be exempt from the PUMP act provisions if they demonstrate compliance would impose an undue hardship.
Employers are required to post a revised poster, Employee Rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Several states already have laws in place related to lactation breaks and accommodation for pregnant workers and new moms. When updating their policies, employers should review state laws, if any, to ensure compliance with requirements that may be different and/or offer greater protection than federal laws. Employers are required to comply with both federal and state laws.
Employers should review and update their human resources policies and employee handbooks to reflect these new laws. LJ Consulting can provide expert guidance on these laws. In addition, if you need a new employee handbook or need to update your current one, they can create a compliant and well-written employee handbook.