New Laws for Working Mothers and Pregnant Workers
Working mothers face many challenges balancing professional and family responsibilities, and often require additional support to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Thanks to new and updated legislation, working mothers and pregnant workers now have more protections to keep them safe when at work, as well as their ability to care for their families.
What is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)?
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, or PWFA, ensures access to reasonable accommodations during pregnancy and provides increased protections against discrimination for pregnant workers.
The law requires employers to give pregnant workers reasonable accommodations, such as:
- Increased bathroom breaks
- Providing a stool or chair
- Light duty
- Rest breaks
- Access to water
Previously, protections for pregnant workers under federal law are limited. While the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, it does not require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers. Employees with severe morning sickness or other serious conditions such as preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening disorder, have been denied pregnancy accommodations under the PDA.
Thank to the new law, pregnant workers will have better access to the accommodations they need for a safe pregnancy while they work. It also prohibits employers from forcing pregnant workers to take leave or deny them career advancements based on their pregnancy or need for accommodations. Additionally, the law protects job applicants from discrimination or denying them jobs altogether, on the basis of pregnancy.
What is the Pump Act (PUMP)?
The PUMP Act, or Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act, recognizes the challenges nursing mothers face when returning to work and protects breastfeeding rights by requiring employers to provide time and space at work for nursing mothers to pump.
Breastfeeding is a crucial aspect of infant health and development, and more than 80% of babies are breastfed at some point in the US. However, the lack of adequate facilities, time, and support makes it challenging for working mothers to continue providing breastmilk to their babies after returning to work.
The Act also stipulates that employers must provide reasonable break times pumping; these breaks must be paid and cannot be deducted from the worker’s regular break time. Additionally, discriminating against nursing mothers or retaliating against them for exercising their rights under the law is prohibited.
This new law strengthens existing breastfeeding at work laws passed in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While it covered many employees for one to two years based on their job status, salaried and non-hourly occupations like teachers, nurses, and farmworkers were excluded. An additional 9 million women will now be covered by the new law, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Importance of Protections for Working Mothers and Pregnant Workers
Providing reasonable accommodations for pregnant or nursing parents is good for babies and for business. It also promotes the health and well-being of pregnant workers and their families by allowing them to continue working in a safe and supportive environment. Yana Rodgers, a labor relations professor at Rutgers University School of Management, said that by increasing their ability to advance their career, it could raise the number of women participating in the labor force.
Lack of accommodations, especially in jobs where there is continuous standing, walking, running, or repetitive motions, can lead to pregnancy complications that force workers to use more sick days or take early leave and could potentially harm their unborn baby. Teachers, nurses, admin assistants, customer service reps, waitstaff, and retail workers are among those disproportionately affected by lack of accommodations.
When to Call an Employment Attorney
No one should have to choose between their paycheck and having a healthy baby or pregnancy. By providing important protections, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the PUMP Act both safeguard working mothers and pregnant workers from being forced out of the workplace or discriminated against. When your rights as a working parent are violated, it can harm you and your baby.
A skilled employment attorney like the ones at Emery Reddy ensure that the laws are followed and will take your employer to court when they aren’t. If you are a working parent or pregnant worker and suspect that your rights are being violated, contact our legal team today to discuss your options. Our experienced team will review the details of your situation, determine if you have a case, and help you decide on the best course of action for you and your family.