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Bipartisan bill would expand FLSA nursing mother protections to salaried workers

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

The measure would also add anti-retaliation protections, among others.

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would provide salaried employees in traditional office environments—about 13.5 million executive, administrative, and professional women—with reasonable break time and a private place to pump breastmilk. The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act, S. 3170, would expand a 2010 law, authored by Senator Jeff Merkley (D. Oregon) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), which provides space and time for hourly employees who are nursing.

The legislation would also, for the first time, include an anti-retaliation enforcement provision to grant women whose workplaces flout the law with pathways to fight for fair compensation and enforcement of the law.

PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act. The U.S. Breast Feeding Committee (USBC) has eagerly anticipated the introduction of the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, explaining that the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers law,” passed in 2010 (amendments to Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act), provided critical protections to ensure that employees have reasonable break time and a private place to pump during the work day. But nearly one in four women of childbearing age are excluded from coverage and have no clear right to break time and space.

The Committee explained in a fact sheet that the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act would strengthen the 2010 Break Time law by:

  • Closing the coverage gap. The bill would protect 9 million employees unintentionally excluded from the 2010 Break Time law by extending the law’s protections to cover salaried employees as well as other categories of employees currently exempted from protections, such as teachers.
  • Providing employers clarity on when pumping time must be paid and when it may be unpaid. The bill clarifies that, in accordance with existing FLSA regulations, employers are not allowed to deduct pay from a salaried, exempt employee for time spent pumping, and they must pay an hourly employee for any time spent pumping if the employee is also working.

“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,” Amelia Psmythe, Deputy Director of the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) said in a press release.

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