The DOL is Serious About PUMP Act Rights for Breastfeeding Mothers.
As we most recently discussed in our May 2023 E-Update, the DOL has issued guidance for employers, employees and its own staff on the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (“PUMP” Act), which requires employers to provide nursing mothers with a reasonable amount of break time and private space to express milk for up to one year after the child’s birth. And the DOL is now taking steps to enforce those requirements, as evidenced by its September 18, 2023 news release.
Apparently, it took a spa almost 4 months to respond to an employee’s request for a private place to pump breast milk. The spa finally provided a manager’s office, but there was no privacy as other employees could enter the room. In addition, the employee was written up for leaving work even though she informed her employer that she needed to leave to express breast milk. The DOL assessed $6,810 in civil penalties for this, and several other labor violations.
This matter serves as a reminder to employers that they need to respond promptly to employee requests under the PUMP Act, and must provide a truly private and functional location (that is not a bathroom) and adequate break time to express breast milk. Remember that the timing, length and frequency of breaks will depend on the individual needs of the employee, and may change over time – but that any break time in excess of normal employee breaks may be unpaid. Smaller employers with fewer than 50 employees may be able to assert a hardship exemption, but the DOL warns that the bar to meet the exemption will most certainly be high. And finally, employers should be aware that local or state lactation accommodations laws may impose additional requirements and offer more protections to breastfeeding employees.