What Employers Should Know
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) went into effect on June 27, 2023. Read on to learn more about the PWFA and its implications for businesses.
What is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?
The PWFA is a federal regulation that requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees.
While it has long been illegal nationwide to discriminate against pregnant employees and applicants with respect to hiring, firing, promoting and other employment practices, the PWFA introduces an added layer of protection for employees.
Which employers must comply with the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?
The PWFA only applies to businesses with 15 or more employees. These are known as covered employers.
What does the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act require?
The PWFA requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers and job applicants. A reasonable accommodation is loosely defined as an adjustment made by an employer to create an equitable work environment for employees with a demonstrated need. Reasonable accommodations are already required under federal law for a host of traits other than pregnancy, including religion and disability.
Reasonable accommodations can vary based on the industry, the materials and resources available to the business, and what is possible or feasible to implement. Employers are not expected to provide accommodations that would impose an “undue hardship” on their business. Loosely defined, an undue hardship is an action that would cause the organization to incur significant difficulty or expense to complete or fulfill. In other words, an undue hardship is an unreasonable accommodation.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides the following examples of reasonable accommodations under the PWFA:
- A place to sit
- The ability to drink water
- A nearby parking space
- Flexible hours
- A uniform that fits
- Appropriate safety apparel
- Additional break time
- Leave after childbirth
- The right to be excused from strenuous activity
- The right to avoid materials that are unsafe during pregnancy
The EEOC has released various educational resources relating to the PWFA:
- “What You Should Know” Q&A page
- Tips for workers requesting accommodations
- “Know Your Rights” workplace poster referencing the PWFA
What does the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act prohibit?
Covered employers are generally prohibited from refusing reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees or job applicants. In the same vein, businesses may not deny a job, promotion or similar benefit to a pregnant applicant or employee because the individual would need a reasonable accommodation to succeed in the role. And they cannot force a pregnant employee to take unpaid leave when a reasonable accommodation may be provided instead. Nor can they retaliate against an employee for requesting a reasonable accommodation, or for reporting discrimination under the PWFA.
Are there other laws protecting pregnant workers that your organization should be aware of?
In addition to state and local rules, various federal regulations protect pregnant workers, including:
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which amended Title VII and protects employees from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy
- The Americans with Disabilities Act, which may protect certain disabilities arising from pregnancy
- The Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires businesses to provide employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after pregnancy
- The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act, which requires businesses to allow employees to express breast milk at work
How can you make sure you’re in compliance with applicable laws protecting pregnant employees?
Aside from the PWFA, there are many rules to be aware of regarding employer treatment of pregnant employees. You must comply with all applicable laws in the jurisdictions in which you do business or employ workers, including federal regulations, state laws and local ordinances. Many states and cities already have legislation in place requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations (or similar benefits) to pregnant employees and applicants.
Keep in mind that if your state or locality imposes a requirement or prohibition that is stricter than those imposed by the PWFA or other federal laws, the state or local rule will apply. Reach out to your benefits broker and/or legal counsel for more information.
This content is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing professional, financial, medical or legal advice. You should contact your licensed professional to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.
For more information
If you have questions about these changes, reach out to our Human Resources Consulting team to learn more.
This content is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing professional, financial, medical or legal advice. You should contact your licensed professional to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Please refer to your policy contract for any specific information or questions on applicability of coverage.
Please note coverage can not be bound or a claim reported without written acknowledgment from a OneGroup Representative.
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