When President Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine in February, Wall Street Journal reporter Sabrina Siddiqui drew one of two coveted spots for journalists to accompany the president on the trip. As she explained in her March 8, 2023, WSJ article, her first question on learning the news was, “[H]ow would I be able to pump breast milk?” With a nine-month old daughter at home, Siddiqui needed to plan for pumping on a clandestine trip into a war zone. Fortunately, the White House Communications director and the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association stepped up and helped her figure out the logistics.
While a bit extreme, Siddiqui’s situation is not unique. According to the federal government’s Office on Women’s Health, eighty percent of new mothers in the United States breastfeed their children, and six out of ten new moms remain in the workforce. Responding to these statistics, Congress passed the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) Act as part of the omnibus budget bill for 2023. President Biden signed the legislation into law on December 29, 2022. The PUMP Act expands on the 2010 Break Time for Nursing Mothers Act, which modified break requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The new legislation covers all employers in the United States (with exceptions for the travel industry) who employ 50 or more workers. Small employers may avoid compliance, but only if the provision imposes “an undue hardship,” which may be difficult for many employers to demonstrate. The law requires employers to provide breastfeeding employees reasonable break time “each time such employee has need to express the milk” for up to one year after the child’s birth. Additionally, the employer must provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public” for pumping employees. During breaks, the employee must be completely relieved of duties or else must be compensated for the time. The rules apply to all employees whether salaried and overtime exempt or hourly, non-exempt.
Starting on April 28, 2023, the new legislation provides enforcement and penalty provisions applicable to non-compliant employers. An employee may bring a claim through the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor or by filing a lawsuit directly against the employer. Accordingly, employers who have yet to understand and implement the PUMP Act’s requirements have very little time to lose.