Understanding the PUMP Act: Empowering Nursing Mothers in the Workplace

Sep 20, 2023

The PUMP (Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers) Act is both a valuable and necessary resource for nursing moms in the workplace. It seeks to protect and support their ability to continue pumping for their infants even after they return to work. 

Ultimately, the PUMP Act expands the rights of nursing mothers in the workplace, ensuring they have the support they need to balance their professional responsibilities and continue to breastfeed their baby. As an HR professional, it’s important to have an in-depth understanding of the PUMP Act and how it impacts your team and your employees.

Understanding the PUMP Act 

Before the PUMP Act, The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) required employers to provide reasonable break time for nursing mothers to pump during the first year after giving birth. This break time had to be accompanied by a private place, other than a bathroom, for nursing mothers. However, these protections applied only to employees eligible for overtime.

The introduction of the PUMP Act brings significant changes to nursing mothers by extending these protections to all employees, both exempt and non-exempt, regardless of overtime eligibility. This expansion represents a substantial step forward in ensuring the rights of nursing mothers in the workplace.

One important aspect of the PUMP Act is that break time for nursing mothers may be unpaid for non-exempt employees. 

However, there are exceptions to this rule.

Break time must be paid if the employee pumps during an otherwise paid break period, is not fully relieved of duty during the entire break, or if another law or ordinance mandates payment during that break time. Employers should be diligent in adhering to FLSA’s standard requirements for counting and compensating hours worked.

Exempt employees, on the other hand, should be paid their full weekly salary, regardless of whether they take breaks to pump. This ensures that exempt employees do not face any financial penalties for taking necessary breaks to attend to their nursing needs.

Frequency and Duration of Breaks

Under the PUMP Act, employees are entitled to breaks whenever they need to pump. The length and frequency of these breaks may vary from employee to employee, and employers should be accommodating in this regard. 

While employers and employees can mutually agree upon a schedule based on the employee’s needs, employers cannot impose a fixed schedule upon nursing mothers. It’s important to recognize that these needs and break schedules may need to be adjusted over time to meet changing circumstances.

Privacy Requirements

The PUMP Act places a strong emphasis on providing nursing mothers with a private and secure space to pump. This space must meet specific criteria:

  1. It should be shielded from view.
  2. It must be free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.
  3. The space should be available each time it is needed by the employee.
  4. Importantly, it cannot be a bathroom.

Exceptions for Small Employers

While the PUMP Act represents a significant step towards supporting nursing mothers in the workplace, it still provides an exemption for small employers. 

Employers with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from the requirements of the law if compliance imposes an undue hardship, taking into account the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business. To assert this exemption, an employer must demonstrate that meeting the employee’s specific needs for pumping at work would create an undue hardship due to the difficulty or expense of compliance.

The PUMP Act brings about crucial changes in workplace regulations to better support nursing mothers. Employers should take these steps to ensure compliance:

  1. Provide training to HR and management about the changes brought about by the PUMP Act.
  2. Post the new FLSA Poster, which reflects the updated regulations.
  3. Be creative and flexible when considering solutions to accommodate nursing mothers in the workplace, recognizing that their needs may evolve over time.

The PUMP Act is a significant stride forward in ensuring that nursing mothers have the support and accommodations they require to successfully balance their professional and personal lives. 

By understanding and adhering to the provisions of this legislation, employers can create a more inclusive and supportive workplace for all employees — including nursing mothers — that promotes a culture of diversity and inclusivity in the modern workforce.

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