The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), signed into law in late 2022, will take full effect on June 27, 2023, at which time the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will start to take charges under the new law. The PWFA requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to a pregnant worker, or a worker who has recently given birth, unless that accommodation would cause an undue hardship to the employer. This law will work in conjunction with Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act, rather than replacing either of them. Here is what employers should know about this new law:
- Who is a “covered employer”? A covered employer means any employer, public or private, with at least 15 employees. (Same rule as Title VII.)
- Who are “covered workers?” Qualified employees with a known limitation related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. This includes employees and applicants who have a temporary inability to perform essential functions, the essential function(s) could be performed by the employee in the near future, and the inability to perform the essential functions can be reasonably accommodated.
- What is a “reasonable accommodation?” This term will have the same meaning as it does under the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning an employer will have an affirmative duty to make existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by pregnant workers, as well as to provide job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials or policies, and other similar accommodations for pregnant workers.
- The House of Representatives and EEOC gave these examples of reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers: the ability to sit or drink water; receive closer parking; have flexible hours; 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; and be excused from strenuous activities and/or activities that involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy.
- What is considered an undue hardship to the employer? An undue hardship is defined by the EEOC as a significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
The PWFA will prohibit covered employers from:
- Requiring a pregnant worker to accept an accommodation without having a discussion between the employer and employee;
- Rejecting a qualified applicant or employee for a job based on their need for a reasonable accommodation;
- Requiring a pregnant worker to take leave if a reasonable accommodation would allow them to keep working;
- Retaliating against a pregnant worker for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination under the PWFA or participating in a PWFA proceeding (including an investigation); or
- Interfering with any pregnant worker’s rights under the PWFA.
You can find the EEOC’s article discussing the PWFA here and the full text of the act here. If you have any questions about this new law, please feel free to contact the Kullman attorney(s) with whom you work.