Last week, while many of you were in your offices with the doors closed, pretending to work before the holiday break, the Senate and House passed an omnibus spending package incorporating two separate pieces of legislation to protect pregnant workers and new moms.
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
Introduced in May, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will require employers with 15 or more employees to make reasonable accommodations for workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions unless the employer can demonstrate that doing so would impose an undue hardship. It’s basically the Americans with Disabilities Act for pregnancy. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will provide examples of presumed reasonable accommodations.
The bill also bars employers from:
- denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions;
- forcing a qualified employee to accept an accommodation other than any reasonable accommodation arrived at through an interactive process;
- requiring such employees to take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided; or
take adverse action in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment against a qualified employee requesting or using such reasonable accommodations.
The Act has wide-ranging support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) to the ACLU and American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act
Effective March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to provide a nursing mother reasonable break time to express breast milk after the birth of her child for up to one year after childbirth. The amendment also requires that employers provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which an employee may use to express breast milk. Employers with fewer than 50 employees did not have to comply if doing so would impose an undue hardship.
The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act provides additional workplace protections for employees who need to express breast milk. Specifically, it expands the requirement that employers provide certain accommodations for such an employee to cover salaried employees and other types of workers not covered under existing law. (Although, employers with fewer than 50 employees still do not have to comply if doing so would impose an undue hardship.)
Further, time spent to express breast milk must be considered hours worked if the employee is also working. Otherwise, employees don’t get paid if pumping on a break unless otherwise required by Federal or State law or municipal ordinance. The bill also extends from one year to two years the available time period for such accommodations.
Noncompliant employers get a 10-day grace period to comply with the required accommodations after an employee puts them on notice.
President Biden is expected to sign the omnibus spending package soon. So, get ready to add these new laws to your list of handbook updates and training for 2023.