What does the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act mean for employers?

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) was recently signed into law by President Biden. The PWFA’s purpose is, essentially, to ensure that pregnant women receive reasonable workplace accommodations when their ability to perform some job functions is limited by pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.

The law goes into effect on June 27, 2023. However, it will take some time for regulations to be created.

The PWFA covers a perceived gap in existing law. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination against pregnant workers but doesn’t specifically require accommodations. At the same time, it is not clear the Americans With Disabilities Act, which does require reasonable accommodations for disability, covers pregnancy. The PWFA makes clear that pregnant workers are entitled to reasonable accommodations from covered employers.

The new law requires employers covered by the law to:

  • Make reasonable accommodations for the known limitations of pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. An accommodation is considered reasonable if it would not impose “undue hardship” on the operation of the business
  • Determine reasonable accommodations for each employee through an interactive process

Additionally, it forbids employers from:

  • Denying employment opportunities to a qualified employee because they would need reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition
  • Requiring the pregnant worker to take leave (even paid leave) if another reasonable accommodation can be provided
  • Taking any adverse action against the employee on account of their having requested reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition

Are we covered by the PWFA?

If your company is covered by other federal civil rights laws, you can expect to be covered by the PFWA. Specifically, you are a covered employer if are a private-sector company with 15 or more employees, or if you are any state or federal employer. The law covers pregnant employees who would be able to perform the necessary functions of the job if given accommodations.

What kinds of accommodations are needed?

The accommodations necessary for pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions will be individual, as the PWFA requires you to engage in an interactive process. However, common accommodations include:

  • Exceptions from certain policies, such as those requiring people to stand during working hours or which don’t allow them to drink water throughout the day
  • Temporary changes in duties, such as not requiring certain hazardous or strenuous activities during pregnancy and for a reasonable period of time after birth
  • More frequent breaks to allow the worker to access medication or simply to rest
  • Schedule changes to accommodate more frequent medical appointments

A lawyer can help you make a plan to comply with the PWFA.


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