Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Extend Federal Protections for Lactating Workers

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 13, 2021

Washington, DC -- The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee, American Civil Liberties Union, A Better Balance, and Center for WorkLife Law celebrate the House introduction of the bipartisan Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act (H.R. 3110). This important bill was introduced by longtime champion Representative Maloney (D-NY-12), Maternity Care Caucus Co-Chairs Representatives Herrera-Beutler (R-WA-3) and Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40), and Black Maternal Health Caucus Co-Chairs Representatives Underwood (D-IL-14) and Adams (D-NC-12). 

The Break Time for Nursing Mothers law (Break Time law), passed in 2010, provides critical protections to ensure that employees have reasonable break time and a safe, private place to pump breast milk. Unfortunately, the placement of the law within the section of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that sets overtime resulted in nearly 9 million working women being excluded from coverage under the federal law. Those left unprotected include teachers, software engineers, and many nurses, among others.

The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act would protect and expand workers' rights to breastfeed by extending the existing Break Time for Nursing Mothers law to cover salaried employees as well as other categories of employees currently omitted from protections. The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act would also ensure that breastfeeding employees have access to remedies that are available for other violations of the FLSA if an employer does not provide break time and a private space.

When a lactating employee returns to work, they need to express breast milk on a regular schedule. Typically, break time and a private space is all they need, yet breastfeeding workers across the nation routinely report that they are unable to access these simple accommodations. 

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.

"As we hear all too often, new mothers returning to the workplace face unfair treatment because their employers refuse to provide them with time and space to express breast milk, forcing them to choose between breastfeeding and their paycheck," said Dina Bakst, Co-Founder and Co-President of A Better Balance. "Some workers reduce their schedules, are terminated, or are forced out of the workplace, foregoing vital income and economic security. Too many who continue in their jobs struggle with harassment and health repercussions. Others simply stop breastfeeding altogether. These challenges face many new working parents, but disproportionately low-wage working mothers of color. The PUMP Act will change that and finally guarantee fair treatment for nursing mothers."

"Breastfeeding discrimination is widespread and mothers who breastfeed their babies are losing their jobs," said Jessica Lee, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for WorkLife Law, UC Hastings Law. "As detailed in our report, Exposed: Discrimination Against Breastfeeding Workers, in nearly two-thirds of breastfeeding legal cases from the last decade the employee lost their job. Many more lost wages, faced health consequences or stopped breastfeeding early because of a lack of simple and affordable accommodations at work. Lactation discrimination has particularly harsh effects for women of color, adding to our nation's health and economic disparities. The PUMP Act will protect lactating employees and their families by strengthening existing law and closing the loophole that leaves nearly one in four working women of childbearing age uncovered by federal protections."

"Employers in every industry should have policies in place to accommodate the needs of pregnant and breastfeeding employees. Unfortunately, that is not currently the case for far too many sectors. Instead, too many workers are penalized, discriminated against, or left without options when they seek reasonable accommodations. The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act would ensure that millions of employees left unprotected by current law will have a reasonable amount of time and a private place to pump breast milk at their place of work. This critical legislation is long overdue and is essential to safeguard the health and economic security of millions of women and families across the country," says Vania Leveille, Senior Legislative Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union

The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act was developed through the ongoing collaboration of the USBC-affiliated Workplace Support Constellation, composed of 30 organizations working collaboratively to increase access to workplace lactation support. The ongoing efforts of the Constellation and stakeholders from across the nation 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.

Support for the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act is widespread. A joint letter urging Members of Congress to support the bill was signed by 59 international, national, & tribal organizations, and 75 regional, state, & local organizations. 

"Through enactment of the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law, we have ten years of data clearly indicating that through early coordination and communication, the needs of lactating employees and their employers are easily anticipated and accommodated. Unfortunately, the Break Time Law leaves nearly 9 million workers unprotected. The PUMP for Nursing Mother's Act intends to close that gap, and we are thankful that Congressional champions from both sides of the aisle came together to move this critical legislation, demonstrating that breastfeeding is a bridge-building bipartisan issue," says Nikia Sankofa, Executive Director of the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee.

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