Washington D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC-02) voted to pass H.R. 3110, the bipartisan, Providing Urgent Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act. This legislation would extend important workplace protections to nursing mothers, clarify employers’ obligations under the law, and ensure lactating workers have access to appropriate remedies. This bill includes an amendment introduced by Congresswoman Ross directing the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to submit a report to Congress within 24 months providing recommendations to improve compliance among covered employers and ensure nursing mothers are made sufficiently aware of their rights under the law.

“In many places in this country, including my home state of North Carolina, it is easier to take a smoke break than for a mother to take a pump break,” said Congresswoman Ross. “This is simply unacceptable. That is why I was proud to vote for the PUMP Act so that nursing mothers no longer must choose between earning a paycheck and feeding their child.

“I was also pleased that the House passed my amendment directing GAO to study employer compliance as well as nursing mothers’ awareness of their rights under this new law. A law is only as effective as its enforcement, and we have unfortunately witnessed countless instances where businesses have not lived up to their legal obligations and failed to inform workers of their rights. We owe it to nursing workers, their families, and our local communities to be vigilant about overseeing the implementation of this law.

Ross spoke in support of the amendment. Remarks can be found here.

The PUMP Act:

  • Extends break time and space protections to workers who are currently excluded from overtime protections, including agricultural workers, transportation workers, airline workers, and teachers;
  • Ensures workers can recover appropriate forms of relief in court for violations, including reinstatement or back pay;
  • Extends break time and space protections to workers up to two years after the employee gives birth or begins nursing a child;
  • Ensures workers are covered by break time and space protections when they begin nursing a child, including an adopted child, or when they give birth, even if the infant is stillborn or the worker does not retain custody of the infant; and
  • Clarifies that if a worker is not completely relieved of duty during breaks, such break time is considered hours worked and thus compensable.


Working mothers are not sufficiently protected under current federal break time and space law.

Enacted in 2010, the break time for nursing mothers provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 require employers to provide (1) reasonable break time to express milk for one year after a child’s birth and (2) a non-bathroom space free from view and intrusion for nursing employees to express breastmilk while at work. Unfortunately, gaps in the law limit the number of workers entitled to these protections and how workers can recover in court when their employers violate the requirements.

  • Current Law Excludes Millions of Workers of Child-Bearing Age.  Because the nursing mother provisions were added to the section of the FLSA providing overtime protections, workers who are statutorily excluded from overtime protections, including teachers, agricultural workers, and certain “white-collar” workers, are also excluded.  As a result, the Economic Policy Institute estimates 8.65 million workers of childbearing age are excluded from nursing mother protections. 
  • Current Law Limits How Workers Can Recover in Court When Employers Fail to Comply.  Because recovery under the FLSA is generally for unpaid overtime or minimum wage, employees are only able to hold their employers accountable for lost wages in court when employers do not provide break time and space. But, as the Labor Department has noted, “because employers are not required to compensate employees for break time to express breast milk, in most circumstances there will not be any unpaid minimum wage or overtime compensation associated with the failure to provide such breaks.” Moreover, lost wages are often an inadequate or inappropriate form of relief where the violation resulted in forced resignation, infection, early cessation of breastfeeding, or diminished milk supply.