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New Federal Protections for Pregnant Workers

Beginning on June 27, 2023, employers with at least 15 employees must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with known temporary limitations on their ability to perform the essential functions of their jobs based on physical or mental conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. As with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers do not have to provide these accommodations where there is undue hardship. In addition, employers must engage in an interactive process with the employee to assess appropriate accommodations. Under the Act, employers may not require employees to take a leave of absence (paid or unpaid) if there is another reasonable accommodation. If an employee decides to take action, employers can defend themselves by showing a good faith effort to identify reasonable alternative accommodations to those proposed by the worker that are just as effective and do not cause undue hardship.

In addition, the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act expands the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require employers to provide reasonable break time to express breast milk for the employee's child for up to one year after birth. The Act applies to all employees. Whether non-exempt employees receive pay for the time used to express milk depends on applicable federal and state laws. Exempt employees should receive their normal salaries. The FLSA already required employers to provide a private place for nursing parents to express milk that shields the employee from co-workers and the public (other than a bathroom). Employers with less than 50 employees are exempt if they can show undue hardship. Air carrier crewmembers are also exempt from the PUMP Act.