Benefits and Compensation, HR Management & Compliance

Ask the Expert: PUMP the ‘Breaks’ on Disciplining Nursing Mothers

Question: We have an employee who is currently breastfeeding and having issues with her performance. She’s reserving our mother’s room four times per workday for an hour each time. Is there a way to navigate this excessive use of the accommodation according to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)? We’re concerned about her ability to get her work done each day.

Answer: The PDA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. In addition, effective December 2022, a new federal law, the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act), requires employers to provide a “reasonable break time” for employees to express breast milk for their nursing child. The PUMP Act permits an employee, for one year following the child’s birth, to take a lactation break each time she needs to express milk.  

When an employee requests break time to express milk, the employee must be either completely relieved of her duties or paid for the break time. Therefore, employers should work with employees to accommodate lactation breaks. The frequency of breaks an employee needs and the duration of each break will likely vary.

For these reasons, it’s generally not advisable to discipline an employee for her performance as related to her need to take lactation breaks during the first year after childbirth. Employers should also check local and state laws, as workers may have greater protections under state laws, such as the right to take lactation breaks beyond one year after childbirth.

Hannah L. Wurgaft is an attorney with Brann & Isaacson in Lewiston, Maine. She can be reached at

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