Balancing pregnancy and parenting with work is no easy feat. From navigating morning sickness on the job to finding a space to pump, it can sometimes feel like we’re being forced to choose between a paycheck and our well-being.
Thanks to years of advocacy from reproductive rights advocates, there are two new laws in place that seek to enhance mothers’ well-being at work, help women maintain their jobs and contribute to a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment for all: the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act.
While these laws aren’t going to magically fix the system overnight, they’re a great start. Here’s a brief overview of what they do:
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which went into effect in June, is aimed at combating pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. It requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” that ensure women can continue to work safely and comfortably throughout their pregnancies, such as more frequent breaks, modified work hours or adjustments to job duties or dress codes. It also covers postpartum mothers who need accommodations due to childbirth recovery and related medical conditions, including lactation and postpartum depression.
The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, which went into effect in May, is designed to facilitate breastfeeding by providing protections for nursing moms in the workplace. This act mandates that employers provide a private, non-bathroom space for nursing mothers to express breast milk, as well as reasonable break times to do so. It strengthened a 2010 law by extending protections to 9 million more employees who were previously uncovered, including nurses and teachers.
So how can you use them? A few ideas to get started:
1. Know Your Rights: First, it’s important to get familiar with the provisions of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act. Like all laws, there are nuances to the rules and how they apply, so be sure to read in detail.
2. Communicate: Have an open and respectful conversation with your employer. Tell them your needs so you can work together to find reasonable accommodations that support your pregnancy or breastfeeding journey without compromising your job responsibilities. Oftentimes, employers truly don’t know what you’re going through or what you need.
3. Keep documentation: Keep detailed records of any requests for accommodations, communication with your employer, and any instances of discrimination or failure to comply with these laws.
4. Spread the word: These laws are a huge step forward for mamas and mamas-to-be—and we should all be aware of them! Encourage your coworkers to be aware of their rights, too. Collective action and advocacy can make things better for all working moms.
5. Seek legal assistance: If you encounter resistance or discrimination from your employer, consider seeking legal counsel. Organizations such as A Better Balance, First Shift, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are available to assist with complaints and investigations.
Remember, you are entitled to accommodations and support! Hopefully we’ll continue to see new protections put in place for working moms in the years to come. The struggle is real, but we’re all in this together. You got this, mama!
About the Author
Jessica is a mother of two small kiddos. She is a journalist and writer with a passion for women’s health. She is committed to destigmatizing conversations about the challenges and messiness of modern motherhood—right alongside the magic.
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