On April 10, 2023, A Better Balance hosted a webinar about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and PUMP Act. This webinar helped break down the benefits, regulations and standards of each of these pieces of legislation. Additionally, speakers discussed possible areas of benefits beyond these two acts, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Perhaps one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation is the PWFA which does not go into effect until June 2023. The passing of both the PWFA and PUMP acts created major advancements for workforce rights, and provided the much needed federal protections for working mothers.
The PUMP and PWFA acts were passed as amendments in the FY 2023 omnibus. Prior to these acts, postpartum and pregnant workers were being forced out of work because employers would not provide the necessary, temporary, and small accommodations mothers needed to work. Once President Biden signed the omnibus into law at the end of December, the PUMP act provisions immediately went into effect. As for the PWFA act, benefits will not be accessible until the end of June. Both of these acts helped expand accommodations for pregnant, postpartum, or women with related medical conditions in the workforce. These federal laws ensure that working mothers have access to their rights as an employee and strengthens enforcements that guarantee employer compliance. Generally, the PWFA allows a worker to request reasonable accommodations that an employer must fulfill without retaliation. If these accommodations would be too expensive or difficult, employers are able to counter these requests. Examples of reasonable accommodations include additional breaks, light duty, time off, changing food and drink policies, and many more. The PUMP act guaranteed workers the right for break times in a designated area to express milk up to one year after birth. While this act does not ensure that this time is paid, if an employee works while pumping it can count as hours worked. Both the PUMP and PWFA acts do not preempt state and local laws.
Other protections come from the state level as well the pieces of federal legislation mentioned previously. While these other federal protections (such as the PDA and ADA) are useful, they are not nearly as comprehensive. For example, the ADA does not necessarily count complicated pregnancies as a disability, nor does it include healthy pregnancies or preventative measures. Additionally, the ADA requires workers to perform the essential functions of their position. Under the PWFA, essential functions are not required if employees can guarantee that this accommodation is only temporary. Both the PUMP and PWFA acts provide protections for part time and undocumented employees.
By Olivia LaMarco, Policy Intern