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HR Insights: Can Employers Require Mothers to Pump in the Bathroom?

Updated: Jun 27

Can Employers Require Employees to Pump in the Bathroom?


Mother with child at laptop, thinking.


Scenario:

I had a baby earlier this year and have just returned to work. My employer is requiring me to pump in the bathroom – is this legal?






Answer:

The short answer is no; this is not legal.

The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act aka the PUMP Act, a federal law passed in December 2022, requires employers provide nursing mothers with reasonable break time and a private place to pump breast milk for their nursing child. The law specifically states that employees are entitled to a place to pump at work, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.


This space must also include a working electrical outlet and be reasonably close to the employee’s work location.


These protections under the PUMP Act are in effect for a period of one (1) year following a child’s birth. Some state laws offer a longer period of these protections, such as Colorado with a requirement of two (2) years, and New York with a requirement of three (3) years.


Some state laws are more stringent regarding the actual space, for example New York, which requires the lactation space include a chair and small table or other flat surface, good lighting, an electrical outlet, and access to a clean water supply. New York employers must also allow employees to store expressed milk in the company refrigerator if one is present.


Additionally, while the break time for expressing milk is unpaid under the PUMP Act, some states require these breaks be paid and do not allow for them to be taken in place of other mandated rest and meal periods.


Employees who feel their rights have been violated under the PUMP Act can make a complaint to the US Wage and Hour Division. States have their own complaint avenues for reporting employer violations.

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