The federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) was signed into law on December 29, 2022, and will take effect on June 27, 2023.
What is the PWFA, and what does it mean for you?
- The PWFA requires all employers with 15 or more employees 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.”
- The PWFA applies only to accommodations. Existing laws already make it illegal to fire or otherwise discriminate against workers on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
- The PWFA does not replace federal, state, or local laws that are more protective of workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. At least 31 states and cities have laws that provide accommodations for pregnant workers.
- The PWFA applies to both employees and job candidates.
What are “reasonable accommodations” under the PWFA?
- Reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers are mostly the same as accommodations for employees with other protected conditions. However, requests based on pregnancy are likely temporary and, therefore, may be easier to make.
- Accommodations that are typically not reasonable are those that eliminate an essential function of the job, create a new job for the employee or provide indefinite leave.
What does the PWFA prohibit?
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
The related Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act), signed into law at the same time and taking effect on April 28, 2023, expands protections put in place by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including millions of workers who were previously excluded from the federal law.
The PUMP Act…
- Provides the right to break time and space to pump breast milk at work to millions more workers, including teachers and nurses
- Makes it possible for workers to file a lawsuit to seek monetary remedies in the event that their employer fails to comply
- Clarifies that pumping time must be paid if an employee is not completely relieved from duty
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 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. A pregnant worker who needs an accommodation before June 27, 2023, may have a right to receive an accommodation under another federal or state law.
In some situations, workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition may be able to get an accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Until June 27, 2023, the EEOC will continue to accept and process Title VII and/or ADA charges involving a lack of accommodation regarding pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.