Since August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I want to share my personal journey and shed light on an essential piece of legislation that supports nursing mothers—the PUMP Act. Additionally, breastfeeding advocacy is incredibly important to me. While I was fortunate to face minimal barriers during my breastfeeding experiences, I am aware that many women encounter significant challenges. The PUMP Act, introduced to Congress in 2021 and signed into law by President Biden on December 29, 2022, aims to expand the rights and protections of nursing employees across the nation.

Related: National Breastfeeding Awareness Month; A Time to Show Support

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Understanding the PUMP Act: A Closer Look

The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, also known as the PUMP Act, builds upon the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law established in 2010. This law mandates that employers nationwide must provide reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom space for lactating employees to pump milk during the workday. The PUMP Act was introduced to address loopholes in the original law and extends its coverage to nearly 9 million more workers, including teachers, registered nurses, farmworkers, and others.

Important Changes Brought by the PUMP Act

1. Closing the Coverage Gap: The PUMP Act almost entirely closes the coverage gap that left 1 in 4 women of childbearing age without federal protection for their right to pumping breaks and private spaces at work.

2. Legal Remedies: With the PUMP Act in place, employees who experience harm due to their employer’s failure to provide break time and space now have the right to file a lawsuit against their employer.

3. Time Worked Clarification: The PUMP Act clarifies that pumping time counts as time worked when calculating minimum wage and overtime, as long as the employee is not completely relieved from their work duties during the pumping break.

Related: Tips for Breastfeeding Moms to Survive Returning to Work

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Rights of Lactating Employees under the PUMP Act

The PUMP Act mandates that employers of all sizes must offer lactating workers a reasonable amount of break time and a clean, private space to express milk for up to one year after childbirth. Importantly, this pumping space cannot be a bathroom. The law applies to all lactating employees, regardless of gender.

Small Businesses and Undue Hardship

Even employers with fewer than 50 employees are covered by the PUMP Act and must provide break time and space for pumping. The law does allow for a potential exemption if providing the required accommodations would impose a significant difficulty or expense, but such cases are rare. In the vast majority of situations, smaller employers must comply with the law’s requirements.

Protection and Coverage under the PUMP Act

Thanks to the PUMP Act, nearly all workers are now covered by federal lactation break time and space requirements. However, certain rail carrier and motorcoach employees have special rules, and airline flight crewmembers (flight attendants and pilots) remain uncovered. Nonetheless, many crewmembers and workers in various industries have a right to lactation break time and private space under other federal and state laws or through their employer’s internal policies.

Taking Action against Non-Compliant Employers

If an employer refuses to comply with the PUMP Act, employees have several avenues to pursue:

1. File a Complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD): Employees can contact the WHD by calling the toll-free number 1-800-487-9243 or visiting to file a complaint. Employers cannot fire or discriminate against an employee for filing a complaint.

2. Seek Assistance: Employees can also reach out to the Center for WorkLife Law and/or A Better Balance for free helpline support in English and Spanish (and other languages upon request) to understand their legal rights and options.

3. Consider Filing a Lawsuit: If an employer violates the break time requirement, denies the intention to provide a private space for pumping, or fires an employee for requesting break time or space, the employee can file a lawsuit. However, before filing a lawsuit for a violation of the lactation space requirement, the employee must notify the employer about the inadequacy of the space at least 10 days in advance.

Related: Breastfeeding Tips to Encourage Breastfeeding Moms

Black Mother preparing breast milk for child. breastfeeding awareness month. The PUMP act
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Empowering Nursing Mothers

Breastfeeding is a natural and essential aspect of motherhood, and the PUMP Act is a significant step toward supporting nursing mothers in the workplace. By closing coverage gaps, providing legal remedies, and clarifying time worked during pumping breaks, the PUMP Act empowers millions of working mothers to navigate the challenges of balancing their professional lives with their breastfeeding journey. As we celebrate Breastfeeding Awareness Month, let’s continue to advocate for breastfeeding support and work towards fostering inclusive and supportive environments for nursing mothers in all workplaces.