Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Set to Take Effect this Summer

                               

Washington, DC (WorkersCompensation.com) -- The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a new federal law which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to federal workers. So, what is it and what does it require? The following breaks down the new law.

When does it go into effect?

The act goes into effect on June 27, 2023. That’s also the date that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will start accepting complaints about employers violating the act. For the EEOC to consider the complaint, the events underlying the claim must have occurred on or after June 27, 2023.

It’s vital for employers to understand that the act does not replace other laws, such as the ADA or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that may protect pregnant workers. This means, for example, that if the employee has a disability within the meaning of the ADA, the employer still may need to provide the employee a reasonable accommodation prior to June 27.

Even before the new law goes into effect, the EEOC will continue to accept and process Title VII and ADA charges alleging the failure to accommodate regarding pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Which employees qualify?

Importantly, the act does not require that the employee have any type of disability, including a disability as defined by the ADA, in order to have rights under the act. 

Instead, it covers employees and applicants for jobs who have known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Which employers must comply?

The PWFA applies to “covered employers," which includes private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees, Congress, federal agencies, employment agencies, and labor organizations.

What types of accommodations might be needed?

The PWFA requires that employers provide “reasonable accommodations.” Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations unless they would cause an “undue hardship” to the employer’s operations. An “undue hardship” is significant difficulty or expense for the employer. 

Examples of such accommodations might include but are not limited to allowing the pregnant employee 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
  • Have flexible hours

What should employers not do?

The PWFA prohibits employers from:

  • Requiring an employee to accept an accommodation without a discussing the accommodation with the worker;
  • Denying a job or other employment opportunities to a qualified employee or applicant based on the person's need for a reasonable accommodation;
  • Requiring an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided that would let the employee keep working;
  • Retaliating against an individual for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination under the PWFA or participating in a PWFA proceeding (such as an investigation); or
  • Interfering with any individual’s rights under the PWFA.

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