Most people don’t realize that the $1.7 trillion federal spending bill that Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed into law at the end of 2022 includes two legal provisions that should be of interest to anyone who works while they’re pregnant or nursing.
Those who have been hoping for more rights for pregnant and nursing employees should know that these new laws extend and expand certain protections provided by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) to the benefit of these members of the American workforce.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
The PWFA requires businesses with at least 15 employees to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who are pregnant. “Reasonable accommodations” (as they do within the context of the ADA) consist of adjustments that can be made to a worker’s employment situation without causing “undue hardship” for the employer or other employees.
Essentially, this means that pregnancy is to be handled the way any short-term disability would be. This typically includes reassignment of tasks that require heavy lifting or hours of standing and allowing a pregnant employee to take more restroom breaks.
The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) Act for Nursing Mothers
This law extends the provisions for nursing employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to those who are exempt from overtime. Under the law, nursing employees must receive paid break time and privacy to pump breast milk in someplace other than a restroom (even a private one) that is clean enough for this use.
Nursing employees must be allowed to pump for at least a year after they’ve given birth. Employers with fewer than 50 workers can get out of this requirement if they can show that it would cause an undue hardship to the business.
This is just a brief overview of the changes intended to give pregnant and nursing employees the accommodations they need to be able to continue working throughout their pregnancy and after they give birth. If your employer is refusing to abide by the law or if you’ve faced retaliation for speaking up about your rights, it may help to seek legal guidance.