Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Close Gaps in Federal Protections for Breastfeeding Employees

Contact: Cheryl Lebedevitch
Phone: 773-359-1549 x 21
Email: clebedev@usbreastfeeding.org
Website: www.usbreastfeeding.org

Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Close Gaps in Federal Protections for Breastfeeding Employees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 9, 2020

Chicago, IL -- The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) celebrates the introduction of the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act (S. 3170). This bipartisan legislation would protect and expand workers’ right to breastfeed by extending the existing Break Time for Nursing Mothers law to cover salaried employees as well as other categories of employees currently exempted from protections, including teachers and airline workers.

The current law, Break Time for Nursing Mothers, requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom space for breastfeeding employees to pump during the work day. This was an important step, however nearly one in four women of childbearing age are not covered by this legislation. The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act would ensure that the 9 million currently unprotected employees would have access to the reasonable accommodations they need to continue breastfeeding after returning to work.

The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act would make two additional significant improvements to the current law. It would provide employers with clarity on when pumping time must be paid and when it may be unpaid, which helps alleviate "gray areas" and stress for both employer and employee. It would also ensure that breastfeeding employees have access to remedies that are available for other violations of the FLSA, so that employers can be held accountable when they do not comply.

Democrat and Republican lawmakers came together to introduce this important bipartisan legislation. The bill was introduced by Senator Merkley (D-OR), Senator Murkowski (R-AK), Senator Duckworth (D-IL), and Senator Booker (D-NJ).

"Collaboration from both sides of the aisle for the creation of this bill clearly illustrates that breastfeeding is a bipartisan issue,” says Nikia Sankofa, USBC Executive Director.

"As the national breastfeeding coalition in the United States, we are celebrating the introduction of the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act as a huge step forward toward comprehensive breastfeeding support in our country! A decade ago, there were no federal laws addressing the needs of breastfeeding employees. Then, in 2010, the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law was passed, and in 2015, federal courts determined that discrimination on the basis of lactation is sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act represents the next critical step toward bringing federal legislation into alignment with the needs of our nation's families," says Amelia Psmythe, Deputy Director of the USBC.

Without the protections they need, nursing mothers face serious health consequences, including risk of painful illness and infection, diminished milk supply, or inability to continue breastfeeding. According to a recent report from the University of California's Center for WorkLife Law, the consequences of this coverage gap also include harassment, reduced wages, and job loss.

Employment is compatible with breastfeeding, and solutions to support nursing mothers exist in all industries. In fact, the HHS Business Case for Breastfeeding shows an impressive return on investment (almost 3:1) for employers that provide lactation support, including lower health care costs, absenteeism, and turnover, and improved morale, job satisfaction, and productivity. Protecting breastfeeding workers means a healthier economy and healthier families.

The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act was developed through the ongoing collaboration of the USBC-affiliated Workplace Support Constellation. Over the past five years, organizations participating in the Constellation have come together to identify the most pressing issues facing breastfeeding employees, including meeting with the federal agencies charged with enforcement of the existing Break Time for Nursing Mothers law. A subgroup of the Constellation worked together to develop model legislation which would address coverage and enforcement gaps in existing law. The subgroup then worked with Congressional champions to ensure that the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act's final language meets the needs of breastfeeding families and their employers, while aligning with the values and priorities of Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. Ongoing efforts to educate Members of Congress on the experiences of breastfeeding employees and their employers – as well as the policy solutions that can help address their challenges – helped to ensure today's strong, bipartisan introduction of the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act.

"We know that 83% of infants breastfeed at birth and 65% of mothers with young children are in the labor force. Yet, again and again studies show that workplace breastfeeding support is inadequate in the United States, contributing to the fact that only 25% of U.S. infants are still exclusively breastfed at six months of age. Important legislation like the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act that supports breastfeeding people at work are another step in our journey toward creating a society where all families have the support they need," says Emily Taylor, Chair of the USBC.

A 2016 study of both maternal & pediatric health outcomes and associated costs based on 2012 breastfeeding rates showed that, if 90% of mothers received the support they need to breastfeed their infants according to medical recommendations, 3,340 deaths, $3 billion in medical costs, and $14.2 billion in costs of premature death would be prevented, annually!

Breastfeeding is a proven primary prevention strategy, building a foundation for life-long health and wellness for parents and children. Every major medical authority urges breastfeeding for at least the first year of life. According to the Surgeon General, breastfeeding protects babies from illnesses like ear, skin, and respiratory infections, diarrhea, and vomiting, as well as longer-term conditions such as obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, and asthma. Mothers who breastfeed for the recommended duration benefit, too, from lower risks of breast cancer, heart disease, and other ailments.

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For more information on the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act refer to USBC’s Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act webpage.

For more information about the benefits of breastfeeding refer to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women's Health webpage.

For more information about the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law refer to the USBC's Online Guide: Everything You Need to Know About the "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" Law.

For more information on how employers can implement workplace accommodations for breastfeeding workers refer to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women's Health Supporting Nursing Moms at Work resource.

For more information on breastfeeding discrimination refer to the Center for WorkLife Law report "EXPOSED: Discrimination Against Breastfeeding Workers."

For more information on the Workplace Support Constellation refer to the USBC's Workplace Support Constellation webpage.

The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee is a national nonprofit organization that works to "drive collaborative efforts for policy and practices that create a landscape of breastfeeding support across the United States," with a focus on the values of leadership, integrity, and inclusion. USBC is made up of over 100 member organizations, including federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and breastfeeding coalitions.

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