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Pregnant person working from their desk.

Comprehensive Guide to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: Protections, Accommodations, and Compliance

TLDR; The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act marks a significant advancement in workplace protections for pregnant employees. By understanding the provisions of the PWFA and implementing best practices, employers can create an inclusive and supportive work environment that benefits both employees and the organization as a whole.

Team Disclo
October 3, 2023

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a federal law that provides critical protections for pregnant employees in the workplace. This new law, enacted by Congress, builds upon existing legislation, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to ensure that pregnant workers receive reasonable accommodations and are protected from discrimination. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the key provisions of the PWFA, its implications for employers, and best practices for compliance.

Understanding the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)

The PWFA was signed into law on December 29, 2022 by President Biden as part of a broader effort to strengthen workplace protections for pregnant employees. The law addresses known limitations in existing legislation and provides clearer guidance for employers and employees.

Key Provisions of the PWFA

  • Reasonable Accommodations: The PWFA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer's business operations. Examples of reasonable accommodations include
  • Modified work schedules and/or additional break time for eating, resting or lactation
  • Sitting to perform some work tasks
  • Receive closer parking
  • Be issued appropriately sized uniforms and safety gear
  • Taking leave or time off to recover from childbirth
  • Be temporarily excused from strenuous activities / assigned light duty work
  • Interactive Process: Employers must engage in a good faith interactive process with pregnant employees to identify and implement appropriate workplace accommodations. The interactive process typically involves:
  • The employee requesting an accommodation, either verbally or in writing
  • The employer and employee discussing the employee's needs, limitations, and potential accommodations
  • If necessary, the employer requesting relevant medical documentation or input from the employee's health care provider
  • The employer and employee agreeing on an appropriate accommodation and implementing it
  • Non-Discrimination and Retaliation: The PWFA prohibits employers from taking adverse action against employees based on pregnancy-related conditions. It also protects employees from retaliation for asserting their rights under the PWFA.

Resources for more of this topic:

Relationship to Other Laws

The PWFA complements and expands upon existing laws, including the PDA, which is part of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the ADA. The PWFA also aligns with state laws, such as those in New York, that provide additional protections for pregnant workers.

Implications for Employers: Navigating Compliance with the PWFA

Employers must take proactive steps to ensure compliance with the PWFA. Human resources departments play a crucial role in implementing accommodation policies and training managers on the law's requirements.

Essential Functions and Undue Hardship

Under the PWFA, a qualified employee is one who can perform the essential functions of their job with or without reasonable accommodations. Employers may deny accommodations if they can demonstrate that doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense, constituting an undue hardship.

Lactation and Medical Leave

The PWFA aligns with the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act), which requires employers to provide break time and a private space for employees to express breast milk. Additionally, the PWFA does not limit employees' rights to medical leave under other laws.

A Better Balance and Appropriations

Organizations such as A Better Balance have advocated for the enactment and appropriations necessary to support the PWFA. These efforts have contributed to the law's passage and its potential to positively impact pregnant employees.

Enforcement

As with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing the PWFA and has been directed to issue regulations to provide further guidance to employers and employees.

The EEOC will start accepting charges under the PWFA on June 27, 2023. For the PWFA to apply, the situation complained about in the charge must have happened on June 27, 2023, or later.

Conclusion

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act marks a significant advancement in workplace protections for pregnant employees. By understanding the provisions of the PWFA and implementing best practices, employers can create an inclusive and supportive work environment that benefits both employees and the organization as a whole.

Additional Resources

Disclo has prepared many helpful articles and resources for employers and employees to reference. A few that may be of interest:

To stay updated on evolving regulations and topics of interest, subscribe to Disclo’s weekly newsletter, Full Disclosure, on LinkedIn or via email.

Article Sources

  1. Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, H.R.1065, 117th Congress (2021-2022)
  2. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) - Pregnancy Discrimination
  3. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - U.S. Department of Justice
  1. Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act), H.R.3110, 117th Congress (2021-2022)

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a federal law that provides critical protections for pregnant employees in the workplace. This new law, enacted by Congress, builds upon existing legislation, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to ensure that pregnant workers receive reasonable accommodations and are protected from discrimination. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the key provisions of the PWFA, its implications for employers, and best practices for compliance.

Understanding the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)

The PWFA was signed into law on December 29, 2022 by President Biden as part of a broader effort to strengthen workplace protections for pregnant employees. The law addresses known limitations in existing legislation and provides clearer guidance for employers and employees.

Key Provisions of the PWFA

Reasonable Accommodations: The PWFA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer's business operations. Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Modified work schedules and/or additional break time for eating, resting or lactation
  • Sitting to perform some work tasks
  • Receive closer parking
  • Be issued appropriately sized uniforms and safety gear
  • Taking leave or time off to recover from childbirth
  • Be temporarily excused from strenuous activities / assigned light duty work

Interactive Process: Employers must engage in a good faith interactive process with pregnant employees to identify and implement appropriate workplace accommodations. The interactive process typically involves:

  • The employee requesting an accommodation, either verbally or in writing
  • The employer and employee discussing the employee's needs, limitations, and potential accommodations
  • If necessary, the employer requesting relevant medical documentation or input from the employee's health care provider
  • The employer and employee agreeing on an appropriate accommodation and implementing it

Non-Discrimination and Retaliation: The PWFA prohibits employers from taking adverse action against employees based on pregnancy-related conditions. It also protects employees from retaliation for asserting their rights under the PWFA.

Resources on this topic:

Relationship to Other Laws

The PWFA complements and expands upon existing laws, including the PDA, which is part of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the ADA. The PWFA also aligns with state laws, such as those in New York, that provide additional protections for pregnant workers.

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Implications for Employers: Navigating Compliance with the PWFA

Employers must take proactive steps to ensure compliance with the PWFA. Human resources departments play a crucial role in implementing accommodation policies and training managers on the law's requirements.

Essential Functions and Undue Hardship

Under the PWFA, a qualified employee is one who can perform the essential functions of their job with or without reasonable accommodations. Employers may deny accommodations if they can demonstrate that doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense, constituting an undue hardship.

Lactation and Medical Leave

The PWFA aligns with the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act), which requires employers to provide break time and a private space for employees to express breast milk. Additionally, the PWFA does not limit employees' rights to medical leave under other laws.

A Better Balance and Appropriations

Organizations such as A Better Balance have advocated for the enactment and appropriations necessary to support the PWFA. These efforts have contributed to the law's passage and its potential to positively impact pregnant employees.

Enforcement

As with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing the PWFA and has been directed to issue regulations to provide further guidance to employers and employees.

The EEOC will start accepting charges under the PWFA on June 27, 2023. For the PWFA to apply, the situation complained about in the charge must have happened on June 27, 2023, or later.

Conclusion

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act marks a significant advancement in workplace protections for pregnant employees. By understanding the provisions of the PWFA and implementing best practices, employers can create an inclusive and supportive work environment that benefits both employees and the organization as a whole.

Additional Resources

Disclo has prepared many helpful articles and resources for employers and employees to reference. A few that may be of interest:

To stay updated on evolving regulations and topics of interest, subscribe to Disclo’s weekly newsletter, Full Disclosure, on LinkedIn or via email.

Article Sources

  1. Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, H.R.1065, 117th Congress (2021-2022)
  2. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) - Pregnancy Discrimination
  3. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - U.S. Department of Justice
  1. Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act), H.R.3110, 117th Congress (2021-2022)
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