On June 21, 2023, two laws took effect that expand protections for pregnant and breastfeeding employees in all industries across the country working for employers with 15 or more employees. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act) were passed with bi-partisan support as part of the 2022 omnibus spending bill and signed into law by President Biden in December.
Seventy-five percent of pregnant women and new mothers are in the workplace. Yet, pregnant workers across the country, particularly those in low-income jobs and in the service industries, have faced many challenges when requesting accommodations in the name of their health. The PWFA promotes women’s health and economic security by ensuring that workers with limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions are not forced out of their jobs or denied reasonable workplace accommodations.
The PWFA applies only to accommodations. Existing laws that the EEOC enforces make it illegal to fire or otherwise discriminate against workers on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The PWFA closes a loophole in the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act by requiring employers to make temporary, reasonable accommodations so that pregnant women can continue to work safely, unless the accommodation will cause the employer an “undue hardship,” meaning significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
Reasonable accommodations” are changes to the work environment or the way things are usually done at work. The House Committee on Education and Labor Report on the PWFA provides several examples of possible reasonable accommodations including the ability to sit or drink water; receive closer parking; have flexible hours; receive appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel; receive additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest; take leave or time off to recover from childbirth; and be excused from strenuous activities and/or activities that involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy.
Specifically, the bill declares that it is an unlawful employment practice to:
These provisions are particularly important to employers and workers in Georgia where there are no state law protections from pregnancy discrimination for anyone other than state employees.
The PUMP Act makes several important changes to close the loopholes in the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, which has required since 2010 that employers nationwide provide reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom space for lactating employees to pump milk during the workday. The PUMP Act increases workplace protections for employees with a need to express breast milk. Specifically, it expands the requirement that employers provide certain accommodations to nursing mothers even if she is a salaried employee, or another type of worker not covered under existing law. Further, time spent to express breast milk must be considered hours worked if the employee is also working. The bill also extends to two years the available time period for such breast-feeding accommodations.
This information is not intend to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation. Please contact one of our attorneys at Schwartz Rollins, or our legal assistant, Vicki Perry at 404.844.4130.