Pregnant Worker’s Fairness Act (PWFA)

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a newly enacted law that aims to protect workers who face pregnancy-related limitations by requiring covered employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” unless it would cause an “undue hardship” to the employer. The law specifically focuses on accommodations and does not replace existing federal, state, or local laws that offer more extensive protection for pregnant workers. Many states and cities, including the State of California, already have laws in place that provide accommodations for pregnant employees. 

The PWFA will go into effect on June 27, 2023, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is tasked with issuing regulations to implement the law. The EEOC will release a proposed version of the PWFA regulations to gather public input and feedback before finalizing them. 

Starting from June 27, 2023, the EEOC will accept charges related to the PWFA. To be eligible under the PWFA, the alleged violation must have occurred on or after June 27, 2023. However, if a pregnant worker requires accommodation before that date, they may still have rights under other federal or state laws. Until the PWFA is in effect, the EEOC will continue to accept and process charges related to pregnancy accommodations under existing federal laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

The PWFA protects employees and applicants of “covered employers,” including private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees, as well as Congress, federal agencies, employment agencies, and labor organizations. 

The law defines “reasonable accommodations” as changes in the work environment or practices that allow pregnant workers to perform their job. Examples of reasonable accommodations mentioned in the House Committee report on the PWFA include providing seating or access to drinking water, offering flexible hours, assigning appropriately sized uniforms or safety apparel, granting additional breaks for bathroom use, meals, and rest, allowing leave for childbirth recovery, and exempting pregnant workers from strenuous or hazardous activities. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations unless they can prove that doing so would cause an “undue hardship,” involving significant difficulty or expense. 

The PWFA also prohibits certain actions by covered employers, such as requiring workers to accept accommodations without discussion, denying job opportunities due to the need for an accommodation, mandating leave when alternative accommodations are possible, retaliating against individuals for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination, or interfering with individuals’ rights under the PWFA. 

Additionally, pregnant workers may be protected by other federal laws, including Title VII, which prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, and requires covered employers to treat pregnant workers similarly to others with similar work abilities. The ADA protects employees from disability-based discrimination and requires reasonable accommodations, although pregnancy itself is not considered a disability. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons, including childbirth and pregnancy-related conditions. The PUMP Act extends workplace protections for nursing mothers, ensuring their rights to express breast milk at work. 

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