On December 29, President Joe Biden signed a $1.7 trillion bipartisan spending bill meant to protect pregnant workers or workers who are breastfeeding. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act) were both signed into law, the latter of which ensures employees who are nursing receive time and a private place to pump in the work place.
While the passing of both laws is a step in the right direction, many breastfeeding and reproductive justice advocates note that employers have found legal loopholes in past legislation that required employers to give lactating employees a place to pump and store breast milk, per Ms. Magazine.
The 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) legislation exempted salaried employees, leaving 9 million women workers of childbearing age unprotected, according to a report released from the Center for WorkLife Law out of the University of California.
This is what makes the PUMP Act so critical — it is supposed to fill those coverage gaps, along with extend the time breastfeeding parents can benefit from these accommodations from one year to two years. In June 2022, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) increased its recommendation for breastfeeding from one to two years.
It also states that the hygienic, private area meant for pumping or breastfeeding cannot simply be a bathroom. It has to be “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
Businesses that have 50 or more employees must provide time and space for pumping ASAP, but employees cannot take legal action against an employer for not doing so until April. There are also some specific exemptions for workers in the transportation industry, so the PUMP Act doesn’t mean the fight for clean and private spaces and allotted time in work spaces for lactating parents to breastfeed or pump is over.