Many new mothers must return to work before they stop lactating. This means they must take time periodically to pump breast milk. However, in years past, less understanding American employers often would refuse to grant breaks to pump or give new mothers privacy to perform this necessary task.
In 2010, Congress passed a law called the Break Time for Working Mothers Act to give female workers access to a private room to pump and the right to use it when needed. But that law left large gaps in coverage. It did not include protections for nonhourly workers who were exempt from overtime pay. Also, it limited the restitution victims could seek because it did not give them the right to sue their employers.
New breast pumping law for 2023
That brings us to the PUMP Act of 2023, which seeks to fill those gaps. Congress passed the PUMP Act in December, and it went into effect in April. It expands breast pumping rights to salaried workers, most of whom are women. It’s expected that the new law will extend pumping rights to 9 million American employees. However, independent contractors and gig workers are not covered. Nor are airline pilots or flight attendants. Railway and motorcoach workers will be included starting at the end of 2025 after industry leaders asked for extra time to implement the change to the law.
Another new option?
For those not protected by the PUMP Act, another new law could help. Congress passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act around the same time and it went into effect in June. It requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” for workers with conditions caused by pregnancy. Such conditions could potentially include the need to lactate during work hours.
A working mother’s decision whether to breastfeed is personal. Employers that do not follow the law regarding the rights of pregnant women and new mothers can be held accountable for the harm their employees suffer as a result.