New Federal Laws Strengthen Protections for Pregnant and Postpartum Workers


In December 2022, Congress enacted two new federal laws that protect employees and applicants who are pregnant or postpartum: the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act).

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)

The PWFA, which goes into effect June 27, 2023, requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants with known temporary limitations related to, affected by, or arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The PWFA is closely modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The PWFA does not require the pregnant or postpartum condition to meet the definition of disability under the ADA. However, it does require employers to follow the ADA’s requirement of engaging in the interactive process with employees and applicants to determine if the employer can reasonably accommodate the individual’s needs without undue hardship.

Under the PWFA, employers cannot require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation is available. Finally, the PWFA protects employees from discrimination and retaliation based on requests for accommodation. The PWFA falls under the authority of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), meaning individuals must file a charge with the EEOC for alleged violations of the law.

Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act)

The PUMP Act went into effect on December 29, 2022. As the name suggests, the PUMP Act protects nursing employees by allowing them to pump at work. An employee must be given reasonable break time to express milk, in a private place other than the bathroom, for up to one year after a child’s birth. For employers with more than 50 employees, employers must ensure the private place is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.

While these protections are not new for non-exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the PUMP Act extends the FLSA pumping protections to cover exempt employees (who were previously excluded from the FLSA’s protections for nursing mothers). The PUMP Act has an exception for employers with fewer than 50 employees if providing the break time and private space is an undue hardship.

Virginia’s Protections

The Virginia Human Rights Act (VHRA) provides similar protections for pregnant and nursing employees. It applies to employers with five or more employees, prohibiting them from discriminating against employees and applicants for pregnancy-related conditions. It also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, including lactation.

Under this law, Virginia employers must provide employees and applicants with notice of the law’s key provisions, post a conspicuous notice of those provisions in the workplace, and update employee handbooks to inform employees of their pregnancy-related protections.

Please contact a WRVB Labor & Employment attorney if you have any questions about complying with these requirements.


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