Merkley, Murkowski, Duckworth, Booker Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Breastfeeding Protections At Work

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), joined by Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation to provide salaried employees in traditional office environments—a group of approximately 13.5 million executive, administrative, and professional women—with reasonable break time and a private place to pump breastmilk. Their bill, the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act, would expand a 2010 law authored by Merkley and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12), which provides space and time for hourly employees who are nursing.

Additionally, the legislation for the first time includes an anti-retaliation enforcement provision to grant women whose workplaces flout the law with pathways to fight for fair compensation and enforcement of the law.

“No American worker should have to choose between her job and breastfeeding her baby,” said Merkley. “Ensuring that new mothers returning to the workplace have the option to continue breastfeeding is good for business and good for families. With this bill, businesses can improve retention of valuable employees, and parents will be empowered to make their own choices, rather than being constrained by outdated workplace policies.”

“Research shows that breastfeeding can have extensive health benefits, both short and long-term. Alaska recently ranked among the states with the highest rates of breastfeeding. We support mothers and their babies in one of the most critical stages of development when more access is available for working mothers,” said Murkowski. “A woman should never have to choose between her job and breastfeeding her child. If a mother chooses to breastfeed, she deserves to have the option of going outside of her work space to do so.”

“Breastfeeding plays a critical role in children’s development and helps reduce the risk of life-threatening diseases for children and mothers,” Duckworth said. “We should be doing everything we can to support working moms and help ensure they can earn a living without risking the safety and health of their child. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan bill that would help make it easier for women to continue breastfeeding after they return to work.”

“Ten years after the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law was enacted, millions of nursing moms are still being discriminated against in the workplace,” Booker said. “For their health and the health of their babies, these mothers not only need a safe, private place to pump, but also need to be guaranteed that their time pumping won’t lead to a docked paycheck or other repercussions in the workplace. This critical legislation will give breastfeeding mothers the labor protections they deserve and the ability to enforce their rights should they be violated.”

Inadequate time and space to pump in the workplace subjects countless women to harassment, reduced wages, and job loss, while others are forced to stop breastfeeding—which can create serious health consequences for their own health and the health of their children. According to the Surgeon General, breastfeeding can help protect babies from illnesses like ear, skin, and respiratory infections, diarrhea, and vomiting, as well as longer-term conditions such as obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and asthma. It also lowers mothers’ risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and other ailments.

“NEA members—most of whom are women—applaud the PUMP Act because it strengthens protections for breastfeeding moms in the workforce and covers the millions of working moms, including educators, who were unintentionally excluded from earlier protections. The medical community for decades has encouraged women to breastfeed because breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for most infants. This legislation will go a long way toward supporting breastfeeding moms and ensuring that they have break time for expressing milk and a private, secure place in which to do it,” said National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskel Garcia.

“As the national breastfeeding coalition in the United States, we are celebrating the introduction of the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act as a huge step forward toward comprehensive breastfeeding support in our country! A decade ago, there were no federal laws addressing the needs of breastfeeding employees. Then, in 2010, the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law was passed, and in 2015, federal courts determined that discrimination on the basis of lactation is sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act represents the next critical step toward bringing federal legislation into alignment with the needs of our nation’s families,” said Amelia Psmythe, Deputy Director of the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee (USBC).

“Collaboration from both sides of the aisle for the creation of this bill clearly illustrates that breastfeeding is a bipartisan issue,” said Nikia Sankofa, USBC Executive Director.

The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act is endorsed by the NEA, the USBC, A Better Balance, and American Civil Liberties Union.