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PUMP Act Provides Nursing Mothers Protections on the Job

At the LHSFNA, one of our biggest priorities is to help employers create a workplace that welcomes and supports every kind of worker. This includes women, who currently make up just one tenth of the construction workforce.

LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer Michael F. Sabitoni
LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer Michael F. Sabitoni

“Here at LIUNA and the LHSFNA, we pride ourselves on giving our brothers and sisters the opportunity to create and support a family throughout their working lives,” says LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Trustee Michael F. Sabitoni. “We know that includes supporting nursing mothers and their rights on the job.”

In their working lives, women face challenges that men do not. To recruit and retain female workers in our industry, we need to make sure our jobsites are equipped to accommodate the needs of women. Recent legislative changes – such as the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act) and the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act (PWFA) – are moving us in the right direction.

It’s recommended that nursing parents breastfeed their children exclusively for six months and continue feeding breastmilk for at least a year. However, without a national parental leave policy, most workers receive only 12 weeks of leave (often unpaid) under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). That means many mothers are still breastfeeding when they return to work. Women shouldn’t have to choose between their health, the health of their baby and their jobs. That’s why laws like the PWFA and PUMP Act are so important for our workforce.

What Is the PUMP Act?

The PUMP Act is a bill that requires employers to provide a private space (that’s not a bathroom) and adequate break times for workers to express breastmilk. The bill was passed to address loopholes in the 2010 Break Time for Nursing Mothers Act, which only covered hourly workers who qualified for overtime. An additional nine million workers are covered under the updated legislation.

5 Things to Know About the PUMP Act

  1. Under the PUMP Act, employers of all sizes covered by the FLSA are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time and a clean, private space for lactating workers (of any gender identity) to express milk for up to one year following childbirth. The pumping space cannot be a bathroom.
  2. The act grants employees the right to sue an employer that violates the law. Legal remedies may include employment reinstatement and compensation for lost wages, lawsuit costs and emotional distress.
  3. The law clarifies that pumping time counts as time worked when calculating minimum wage and overtime, if an employee is not completely relieved from their work duties during the pumping break.
  4. Employers are required to provide separate break time to pump. However, employees can choose to use their existing break time to pump if they desire.
  5. Employers that have fewer than 50 employees must require break time and space, but may be excused from compliance if the accommodation would impose ‘undue hardship.’ Undue hardship is determined by looking at the difficulty or expense of compliance in comparison to the employer’s size, financial resources and business structure.

What Does This Mean for Employers?

It’s important to note that accommodations can be fairly simple and unimposing for employers. The PUMP Act stipulates that lactation spaces should be “shielded from view” and “free from intrusion,” meaning they should be away from any windows, cameras or other workers. Locks and privacy signs are recommended, but not required. The accommodation could be as simple as a marked off space with a curtain or partition, but there are many solutions employers can explore, such as mobile lactation pods.

With protections like the PUMP Act, workers can feel empowered to ask for the support they need from their employer. This kind of legislation is a step in the right direction in making all workers – including caregivers and mothers – feel welcomed and supported on the job, which is the only way we are going to continue to recruit an inclusive workforce.

Additional Resources

For additional information on the PUMP Act, visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.

The LHSFNA’s Women in Construction: Improving Workplace Safety and Health pamphlet includes more information on appropriate personal protective equipment and limiting exposure to chemicals that can harm women’s reproductive organs. Fund staff are also available to provide guidance to LIUNA District Councils, Local Unions and signatory contractors that have questions about supporting workers’ well-being on the job.

[Hannah Sabitoni]

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