The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a new federal law that requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. The PWFA took effect on June 27, 2023. It allows employees to file charges of discrimination for violations of the PWFA.
Workers already are protected from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Under the PWFA, employers with 15 or more employees are now required to provide reasonable accommodations for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers
A reasonable accommodation under the PWFA is a modification or adjustment to the job or the work environment. The House Committee on Education and Labor Report on the PWFA lists these examples of potential reasonable accommodations:
- Provide the ability to sit or drink water.
- Provide closer parking.
- Give additional break time to use the bathroom, eat and rest.
- Allow flexible hours.
- Excuse the worker from strenuous activities and/or activities that involve exposure to compounds that are not safe for pregnancy.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is expected to issue guidance that provides further examples of reasonable accommodations that address known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
Other Requirements Under the PWFA
In addition to providing reasonable accommodations, the PWFA requires the following:
- Employers must engage in the interactive process to arrive at a reasonable accommodation.
- Employers cannot deny employment opportunities to a qualified employee if the denial is based on the need to make a reasonable accommodation.
- Employers cannot require a qualified employee to take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided.
- Employers cannot take any adverse action against a qualified employee on account of the employee requesting or using a reasonable accommodation.
Employers should review their policies to ensure compliance with the new requirements under the PWFA and update them as necessary. If you have any questions about how this policy could influence your business, do not hesitate to contact us.