House passes bill expanding nursing mother workplace accommodation requirements

The House passed a bill Friday to expand federal requirements that employers provide break time and accommodations for nursing mothers to pump breast milk in a private, nonbathroom space.

Dubbed the PUMP for Working Mothers Act, the bipartisan legislation led by Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York and Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington would close a “loophole” or “coverage gap” under the 2010 Break Time for Nursing Mothers Act, which first mandated that workplaces provide nursing and pumping accommodations. Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley.

An estimated 9 million childbearing-age women are not currently covered under the current legislation, though, particularly those who are salaried workers and not entitled to overtime pay.

“Without these protections, nursing mothers face serious health consequences, including the risk of serious illness and the inability to continue to breastfeed,” Maloney said. “These basic protections would ensure that working moms who want to breastfeed can continue to do so and prevent nursing mothers from being singled out, ridiculed, or fired.”

The bill also would protect salaried workers from having their pay docked for pumping and expands the opportunity for mothers to sue employers who are in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act by not providing reasonable accommodations for pumping or breastfeeding.

Provisions opening up the opportunity for lawsuits concerned Republicans arguing against the bill.

North Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx said that the bill will “increase litigation and result in a financial windfall for trial lawyers.”

Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Good charged that the bill was “written by trial lawyers,” and he also took a swipe at the far-Left’s push for gender-inclusive language when talking about the name of the legislation.

“Should I call it the pump for working persons act? I can’t keep up with rules of this House,” Good said, a reference to a left-wing push to use terms such as “pregnant people” instead of “mothers,” to be inclusive for transgender individuals, and a House gender-neutral pronoun rule passed this year.

A number of Republicans also criticized the bill as being “one-size-fits-all” for nursing accommodation requirements, arguing that there should be more flexibility for various types of workplaces.

Foxx said that the bill does not clarify whether employers are required to designate an entirely separate area for pumping mothers, or if the room can have multiple uses.

Texas Republican Rep. Beth Van Duyne, who noted that she had two children while working, said that the bill “imposes one-size-fits-all nursing recommendation requirements on different kinds of work environments, including those found in the airline, shipping, and agriculture industries.”