Protecting Employers Since 1985

Attention Employers: New Federal Law Protecting Pregnant Workers

On June 27, 2023, the new federal law, Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) went into effect. 

Who is covered under the new law?

Private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees, Congress, Federal agencies, employment agencies, and labor organizations. Note: employees and job applicants are covered by this law.

What does the law require employers to do?

Covered employers must 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.

Does this law replace other federal, state, or local law as to pregnancy?

NO! This law applies only to accommodations. Other laws provide different protections to the pregnant worker (Family and Medical Leave Act) and as to illegal termination and/or discrimination (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act). In fact, more than 30 states and cities have laws that provide accommodations to pregnant workers.

What may be some examples of “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant workers? (Subject to change pending EEOC rulemaking)

  • Ability to sit or drink water.
  • Receive closer parking.
  • Receive appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel.
  • Receive additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest.
  • Take leave or time off to recover from childbirth.
  • Be excused from strenuous activities and/or activities that involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy.

What is an “undue hardship” on the employer’s operations?

An “undue hardship” would be a significant difficulty or at significant expense to the employer.

What are some prohibited activities of a covered employer under the law?

  • Require an employee to accept an accommodation without a discussion about the accommodation between the worker and the employer;
  • Deny a job or other employment opportunities to a qualified employee or applicant based on the person’s need for reasonable accommodation;
  • Require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided that would let the employee keep working;
  • Retaliate against an individual for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination under the law or participating in a proceeding under the law (such as investigation); or
  • Interfere with any individual’s right under the law.

With regard to a “best practice” for employers, it is highly recommended that the employer be involved in the interactive process with the pregnant worker to reach an agreement on any potential accommodation conflicts.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The NPRM was posted by the Federal Register for public comment in the Federal Register on August 11. Members of the public wishing to comment on the NPRM will have 60 days from the date of the publication to do so through their website.  The proposed rules may effect portions of this new law.

If you have any questions on this topic, please contact attorney Anthony J. Caruso, Jr., in our St. Charles office at (630) 377-1554 or by email.

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