When President Biden signed the new federal spending bill, he also signed a couple of new laws attached as amendments that clarify the rights of pregnant and nursing workers.
Advocates say that the two laws were necessary because neither the Pregnancy Discrimination Act nor the Americans With Disabilities Act provided enough protections to ensure healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. Both pregnant and nursing workers have often faced extensive hurdles to prove discrimination or to get accommodations for their needs. Here is a brief summary of the new laws.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
This law, which goes into effect in June, requires employers with 15 or more employees to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers unless the employer can show that doing so would cause an undue hardship.
In general, this means that employers are required to treat pregnancy just like any short-term disability. A pregnant cashier cannot automatically be refused if they are asking for accommodations like a chair to sit on while they check out customers, extra bathroom breaks or assignment to duties that would not injure their back or strain their stomachs.
The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act
Although the Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide nursing employees with break times and privacy to pump breast milk at work, there are gaps in that coverage. Workers who were exempt from overtime were not included. This law closes that gap.
In addition, it requires employers to provide a space for pumping that is both hygienic and not in a bathroom. It went into effect immediately, but employers are being given some grace to bring themselves into compliance since formal legal action for noncompliance cannot begin until April.
These days, it’s more important than ever for workers to be aware of their rights – and to take action when they face discrimination.