The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) were passed in the 2022 Omnibus bill and went into effect in 2023. Both laws grant federal workplace protections to expecting or recent mothers in the workplace.

PUMP: Key Facts for HR Professionals

Amends the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA).
Is enforced by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD)of the Department of Labor (DOL).
Applies to all employers, with an exemption only for small employers (fewer than 50 employees) who may experience “unduehardship by causingthe employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relationto the size, financial resources, nature or structureof the employer’s business.”
What duties did PUMP create for employers and HR professionals? The requirements of PUMP are two fold:(1) an employer must provide “reasonable break time” for an employee for one year after birth to express milk for the employee’s nursing child and (2) must providea room “other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers.” The employer is not required to compensate the employee for this time if they are not working and are notinter rupted with work during the break.
When must an employer takeaction to comply? Under the law, eligible employers should alread yhave a room that meets the standards of PUMP available for use when needed. If an employer is not in compliance, they have 10 days after being notified by an employee who seeks to utilize this room before the affected employee can file suit for noncompliance.

PWFA: Key Facts for HR Professionals

Amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII).
Is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
What duties did PWFA create for employers and HR professionals? The PWFA grants pregnant workers the right at the federal level to have access to reasonable accommodations to address “known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” The PWFA purpose fully borrowed language and concepts fromother laws within Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to allow employers to build on existing accommodation policies and processes.

Like the ADA, the PWFA seeks to create a system wherein pregnant workers have access to reasonable accommodations. Additionally, like the ADA, an employer may say no to such accommodation if granting
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it would cause an “undue hardship.” However, under the PWFA, the employer must accommodate a pregnant worker’s inability to perform an essential function of the position (with or without the reasonable accommodation) if the employer can reasonably accommodate that inability, the inability is “temporary” and the essential function could be performed “in the near future".

When must an employer take action to comply? Much like the ADA, it is first incumbent on the eligible employee to put their employer on notice that a reasonable accommodation is being requested. The PWFA states that an eligible employee must “communicate” their “known limitation” to their employer. The law itself is silent on what that entails exactly; however, the EEOC’s proposed regulations point to this being construed broadly.

In the August 2023 Proposed Regulations, the EEOC stated that employees and applicants have the responsibility of asking for an accommodation. However, “they do not need to mention the PWFA, say any specific phrases or use medical terms, and the request does not have to be in writing.” Additionally, “[b] ecause the statute and the regulations emphasize employee notice that is simple and straightforward, and need not be in writing, covered entities should train first-line supervisors to recognize such requests as requests for accommodations and to act on them accordingly.”

Creating Compliant Workplaces

Prudent organizations should conduct reviews of their intra-office communication policies, job descriptions,best practices regarding accommodations and people manager training to ensure compliance with anyand all federal, state and local laws that affect the workplace — now including PUMP and PFWA.

Additionally, while PUMP and PWFA provide a federal baseline, employers are encouraged to shapebenefits and create a culture of inclusivity that promote voluntarily compliance with these laws. Whiledifferences in organizational size, industry and profit-level will affect the level of benefits a company canvoluntarily offer, creating a culture of inclusivity that seeks to support workers and destigmatize caregivingwill foster a positive workplace culture.