What Workers Should Know About the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act

Last December, President Biden signed bipartisan legislation known as the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act. The PUMP Act went into full effect at the end of April 2023. This new law is a major step forward in protecting nursing mothers in the workplace who want to breastfeed.

In Ohio, state law protects a nursing mother’s right to breast feed in places of public accommodation, but the laws do not cover the rights of employees who are nursing to have breaks or a place to pump breastmilk. This new federal law changes that for Ohio’s workers.

What is the PUMP Act?

​The PUMP Act builds on the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Act (the break time law), passed in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The PUMP Act amends and expands that legislation to provide workplace protections to nearly 9 million additional breastfeeding employees who were not previously covered under the ACA and makes available enforcement mechanisms that were not included in the 2010 law.

The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act requires employers to provide:

  • Reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for their nursing child, and
  • A place to pump at work, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.

These accommodations must be provided for one year after the child's birth and be available each time an employee needs it. These protections apply regardless of the employee’s gender.

What rights do lactating employees have under the law?

Smaller employers (fewer than 50 employees) are covered by the law; however, they may be excused from complying if providing the required break time and space would impose a significant difficulty or expense (called an “undue hardship”). Undue hardship is fairly rare, so in most situations, even smaller employers must provide the required break time and space.

There is no maximum number of breaks, so a worker covered under the Act is entitled to take as many breaks as needed that day. The frequency, duration and timing of breaks aren't the same for each person. They can vary based on factors unique to each employee and child.

While employer and employee can agree to create a break schedule based on the nursing employee's needs to pump, the schedule may not be static and may need to be adjusted over time as the needs of the nursing employee change.

Employers cannot require nursing workers to make up the time they spent on pump breaks because adding work time to their normal schedule could be considered an adverse action made in retaliation for exercising their lactation rights.

The law also clarifies that pumping time counts as time worked when calculating minimum wage and overtime if an employee is not completely relieved from their work duties during the pumping break.

Who is protected by the PUMP Act?

Thanks to the PUMP Act, nearly all workers are now covered by the federal lactation break time and space requirements. (There are currently limited exceptions for airline crew members and pilots, and there are special rules for certain rail carrier and motorcoach employees.)

What can an employee do if their employer refuses to comply with the law?

If an employer fails or refuses to comply with the law, employees can take action in a number of ways:

1. Employees can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) by calling the toll-free number 1-800-487-9243 or by visiting www.dol.gov/whd. It is illegal for an employer to fire or discriminate against an employee for filing a complaint. See https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/contact/complaints

2. Several non-profit groups have information and free helplines available to help workers understand their legal rights under the new law. A Better Balance provides Helpline support in English and Spanish, with other languages on request. See https://www.abetterbalance.org/get-help/

3. Employees may choose to file a lawsuit against their employer. An employee does not need to file a complaint with the Department of Labor before filing a lawsuit.

A lawsuit can be filed right away in the following circumstances:

  • For violations of the break time requirement.
  • If the employer has indicated it has no intention of providing private space for pumping.
  • If an employee has been fired for requesting break time or space.

Before a worker is allowed to file a lawsuit for a violation of the lactation space requirement, an employee must notify their employer that an adequate space has not been provided. Employees must do this 10 or more days before filing any lawsuit in court. Informing an employer that the lactation space is not adequate may give the employer an opportunity to provide what is needed and avoid legal action.

For more information see:

FLSA Protections for Employees to Pump Breast Milk at Work

FLSA Protections to Pump at Work

Enforcement of Protections for Employees to Pump Breast Milk at Work

Supporting Nursing Moms at Work

The PUMP Act Explained

5 Facts About the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act