Pregnancy rights for college and university employees


a group of business people sit in a chairs listening to a lecture, focus emphasized on the pregnant audience member

On December 29, 2022, as part of the omnibus spending bill, Congress signed into law the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”) and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (“the PUMP Act”). In January, Bricker Graydon attorneys Brad Bennett and Olivia Holbrook discussed how these two pieces of federal legislation expand and clarify the rights and accommodations of pregnant and nursing employees in the workplace. The Acts will also impact colleges and universities. The legislation comes on the heels of the Department of Education’s July 2022 Title IX Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which proposed the first major changes to the Title IX regulations regarding pregnant and parenting students and employees since the first Title IX regulations were implemented. 

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)

The PWFA takes effect June 27, 2023, and requires employers with  15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions unless the accommodation would cause an undue hardship for the employer. 

The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (the PUMP Act)

Unlike the PWFA, the PUMP Act became effective immediately on December 29, 2022, and is an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA). The PUMP Act requires employers to provide reasonable breaks for both exempt and non-exempt employees to express breast milk for one year after the child’s birth and to provide a location other than a bathroom that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, to express breast milk. The Department of Labor began enforcing the PUMP Act on April 28, 2023.

What does this mean for colleges and universities? 

Like other employers, colleges and universities should consider the ramifications of these two new laws and should conduct a review of current employment policies. Employers should ensure that their HR teams, managers, and supervisors are trained on the new legal requirements as well as the employer's policies and procedures. Don’t forget, colleges and universities are also required to comply with provisions of Title IX which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, including marital or parental status (34 C.F.R § 106.57(a)) and pregnancy (34 C.F.R § 106.57(b)). While we anticipate additional obligations to be identified in the anticipated final Title IX regulations, clients should be reviewing their policies now to ensure they are in compliance with the current Title IX regulations and the new legislation

Be on the lookout for our next article, in which the Bricker Graydon Higher Education Team will discuss the July 2022 proposed changes to the Title IX regulations applicable to parental status and pregnancy and related conditions. 

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