Federal Government Passes Enhanced Protections for Pregnant and Nursing Workers

By Masud Labor Law

January 3, 2023

On December 29, 2022, President Joe Biden signed a $1.7 trillion spending bill into law that included a pair of amendments which significantly change civil rights laws affecting new and expecting mothers.  Below is a synopsis of the new laws.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”):

The PWFA extends similar protections as provided to persons with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act to pregnant workers seeking accommodations.  Specifically, the PWFA requires employers with 15 or more employees to grant reasonable accommodations for employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless doing so would present an undue hardship for the employer.  Covered employers must also use a specific interactive process set by the PWFA to determine appropriate accommodations.  In that regard, employers are prohibited from requiring employees seeking accommodations to take leave, whether paid or unpaid, if another reasonable accommodation is available.  Similarly, employers cannot force employees to accept an accommodation that was selected without using the interactive process.  The PWFA will go into effect at the end of June 2023.

The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (“PUMP Act”):

The PUMP Act enhances existing workplace protections for nursing employees.  More specifically, the PUMP Act requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide reasonable break times and a private place (other than a bathroom) for lactating workers, including salaried employees, to express milk.  Such breaks need not be paid unless the employee is still “on duty” or “not completely relieved from duty” during the breaks.  Employers with fewer than 50 employees should note they too are subject to the PUMP Act’s requirements, unless the requirements would impose an undue hardship on their business.  Practically speaking, “undue hardship” is a high standard to meet, so most small employers will likely be subject to the foregoing requirements.  The PUMP Act becomes effective in late April 2023.

Clients will want to revise their handbooks and other policies to account for the PWFA and PUMP Act’s requirements.  If you have questions or would like assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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