One year ago, President Joe Biden signed into law the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act). The PUMP Act requires employers to provide break time for workers currently nursing, allowing them to pump breast milk when needed until one year after their child’s birth. It also states that employers must provide a location, other than a bathroom, where an employee can privately pump without disruptions or intrusions. Companies with fewer than 50 employees are not legally obligated to follow the PUMP Act if it causes undue hardship to the employer, but the Department of Labor has clarified that the employer bears the burden of proving that compliance with the provisions would be an undue hardship. To assert the exemption, an employer must demonstrate that the employee’s specific needs for pumping at work create significant difficulty or expense in light of the employer’s size, financial resources, nature, and structure. Because this is a stringent standard, exemptions will be granted only in limited circumstances.  

As of April 2024, numerous lawsuits have been filed against businesses for non-compliance with the PUMP Act. Violating this federal law can result in substantial fines and penalties, damage to the company’s reputation, and increased employee turnover. Therefore, all employers should consider how to be supportive of employees who are also nursing mothers.  

Here are two key strategies to ensure your company is complying with the PUMP Act: 

Offer Adequate Break Time 

Many employees have expressed frustration over the insufficient break time provided for expressing breast milk. Some employees have reported that their employer expects them to pump during their lunch break, while others have faced challenges when requesting multiple breaks throughout the day for pumping. 

While the law does not specify how many breaks an employee should receive for expressing milk, most woman say they need between 2-3 during a typical eight-hour workday. However, employers should be flexible and allow their nursing employees to pump whenever they need to.  

Another common complaint from employees is the insufficient time allotted for pumping during breaks. Employers should recognize that the time needed to express milk varies among women, requiring flexibility. Some women may need only 10 minutes, while others may require over 30 minutes. To comply with the PUMP Act, employers should avoid placing restrictions on the number and duration of breaks provided to nursing employees. This freedom will make employees feel more comfortable about nursing in the workplace.  

Provide a designated pumping room  

One of the main reasons why companies are facing lawsuits is because they are not providing their employees with adequate space to express milk. The PUMP Act states that employers must provide a location, other than a bathroom, where an employee can privately pump without disruptions or intrusions. However, many employees have reported that their employers tell them to either go to their car to pump or in the company break room, which typically has employees going in and out. This does not give employees the privacy they need when pumping, and it does not comply with the PUMP Act. 

To comply with the PUMP Act, employers must provide employees with a private room designated for expressing milk. Employers should also provide a sign that employees can place on the door when the room is in use or install a lock that allows the door to be secured from the inside. This privacy will help employees feel comfortable and supported, ensuring they can express milk without stress or interruption. It is also important that this private room has access to running water and a cooler or refrigerator that allows employees to store their breast milk.  

It has been a year since the PUMP Act has taken effect, and many companies have failed to comply with this federal law. It is important for employers to ensure they are complying with the PUMP Act to prevent costly fines and employee frustrations.