Two new federal laws that President Biden signed on December 29, 2022 will provide more protection for pregnant and nursing workers. While pregnancy discrimination is already illegal, these laws provide additional protection.
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: This law goes into effect on June 27, 2023 and applies to discrimination claims after that date. This law makes clear that employers with at least 15 employees must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers unless providing the accommodation would cause an undue hardship on the employer. This makes pregnancy accommodations similar to disability accommodations, but pregnant workers only have to prove pregnancy, not a disability. The requirement of accommodation is triggered by a "known limitation" of pregnancy.
This law clarifies the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which didn't mention accommodations. The Supreme Court held in 2015 that employers must grant accommodations to pregnant employees if they provide such accommodations to other similarly-situated non-pregnant employees. The cases have been all over the place on this, so this new law makes the requirement very clear.
Cases under this law are handled the same way Title VII claims are handled.
Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act): This law amends the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to provide reasonable break times to all nursing employees, and a private place to express breast milk. This law came into effect on December 29, 2022. Employers with less than 50 employees will be exempt if compliance creates an undue hardship. Employees who work remotely have the same entitlement to breaks as other employees and must be able to do so without being observed by employers.
The Fair Labor Standards Act already provided for break time and private space for most employees, but this law expands that protection to employees who were considered exempt from overtime and remote workers.
Breaks are only paid if they are less than 20 minutes or if the worker is not completely relieved from duty during the break.
Employers who break this law or who retaliate can be liable for lost wages, liquidated damages, compensatory damages, other economic losses, and even punitive damages.
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