Late last year, Congress passed The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act. While New York State already had laws defining and protecting the rights of nursing employees, the new federal law creates protections for millions of more employees.
Compliance with New York State Law
Nearly all New York employers must provide nursing employees with:
- The option to take a break once every three hours, outside of regular paid breaks or mealtimes;
- At least 20 minutes for each break;
- A private room close to the workspace, with a door and functioning lock. This room cannot be a bathroom, and must contain clean space with a chair, table, and access to an electric outlet and water supply;
- A refrigerator to store expressed milk; and
- Posters and other written notifications detailing the right to take breaks throughout the workday to pump breast milk.
In addition, if the employee is not completely relieved of work duties while pumping, pumping time is compensable at the employee’s regular wage rate and counts towards the total number of hours worked for purposes of determining overtime.
The above accommodations are required for up to three years following the birth of the nursing child.
Compliance with Federal Law
Similar to New York’s law, The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act requires employers to provide a place, other than a bathroom, shielded from view and free from intrusion for employees to express breast milk. Employers must also provide “reasonable break time” for employees to pump. This protection is applicable for up to one year after the birth of the child.
Importantly, the PUMP Act provides additional enforcement mechanisms. Employees can now seek monetary remedies through legal recourse if an employer violates the break time requirement, fails to provide a private space to pump, or fires a nursing employee for requesting break time or space to pump.
Employers could face lawsuits and hefty financial penalties if they do not comply with requirements under state or federal laws. Whether you’re an employer or employee, consult with an experience employment attorney to determine whether your workplace is affording the required protections to breastfeeding workers.