Beginning on June 27, 2023, employers with 15 or more employees will be required to comply with the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”), a new federal law. The PWFA requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to a worker’s known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation will cause the employer an undue hardship. Reasonable accommodations are changes to the work environment or the way things are usually done at work. The PWFA applies to private and public sector employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations with 15 or more employees.
The PWFA expands upon existing federal laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination. Specifically, pregnancy discrimination is already prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which requires covered employers to treat employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions the same as other similarly situated employees. Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with certain conditions related to pregnancy if that condition qualifies as a disability, such as diabetes that develops during pregnancy. However, many other common pregnancy-related conditions are not covered under the ADA.
The PWFA extends protections similar to those provided under the ADA to employees and applicants with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. According to recent guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), examples of possible reasonable accommodations for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions may include:
- The ability to sit or drink water;
- Closer parking;
- Flexible hours;
- Appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel;
- Additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest;
- Leave or time off to recover from childbirth; and
- Being excused from strenuous activities and/or activities that involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy.
Under the PWFA, covered employers will also be prohibited from:
- Requiring an employee to accept an accommodation without a discussion about the accommodation between the worker and the employer;
- Denying a job or other employment opportunities to a qualified employee or applicant based on the person’s need for a reasonable accommodation;
- Requiring an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided that would allow the employee to continue working;
- Retaliating against an individual for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination under the PWFA or participating in a PWFA proceeding (such as an investigation); or
- Interfering with any individual’s rights under the PWFA.
- In light of new law, covered employers may want to consider taking the following actions:
- Analyzing potential accommodations that could be provided to pregnant employees for known limitations;
- Conducting training for human resources personnel and supervisors to ensure they understand how to appropriately respond to accommodation requests; and
- Reviewing and updating accommodation policies to ensure compliance with the PWFA.
The EEOC will begin accepting charges under the PWFA on June 27, 2023.
Should you have any questions about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, please feel free to contact any member of our Labor and Employment team.
The information contained in this document does not constitute legal advice.