Effective as of June 27, 2023, the new Federal “Pregnant Workers Fairness Act” 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.” Covered employers include private sector employers with at least 15 employees and employment agencies. An “undue hardship” is significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
Workers can file charges under the PWFA beginning with claims arising on or after June 27, 2023. Until then, the EEOC will continue to consider whether workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition are entitled to an accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII) or under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For charges arising on or after June 27, 2023, the EEOC will analyze charges regarding accommodations for workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions under the PWFA and, where applicable, under the ADA and/or Title VII.
A few reasonable accommodations for expecting moms in the workplace include:
- The ability to sit or drink water
- Closer parking spots
- Flexible working hours
- Appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel
- Additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest
- Ability to take leave or time off to recover from childbirth
- Pardoned from strenuous activities and/or activities that involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy
When it comes to expecting moms in the workplace, covered employers cannot:
- 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 a 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 PWFA or participating in a PWFA proceeding (such as an investigation)
- Interfere with any individual’s rights under the PWFA.
While the PWFA applies only to providing reasonable accommodations, existing federal laws like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act still apply and prohibit termination or other discrimination against workers on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. More than 30 states also have laws that provide accommodations for pregnant workers. The PWFA does not replace federal, state, or local laws that are more protective of workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Other Federal laws may apply to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act).
Employers should ensure that supervisors and managers are aware of the new law and compliance obligations. Additionally, employers should download the PWFA Poster, and display it in a conspicuous place in all of their establishments so as to permit employees to readily read it.