Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
Employers should be aware of a recent expansion of federal law as it relates to the rights of pregnant workers. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) places obligations on Covered Employers, which includes private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees, Congress, Federal agencies, employment agencies, and labor organizations.
This new Act extends certain protections from the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act to Qualified Employees of Covered Employers under the PWFA. Notably, the law requires Covered Employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to a Qualified Employee in order to perform the essential job functions when the employee has known limitations due to pregnancy, unless the accommodations would cause the Covered Employer undue hardship. The concept of providing reasonable accommodations is not new to most employers who have addressed requests made under the Americans with Disabilities Act; however, applying the accommodations to pregnant workers may be new to employers who have not been required to make accommodations under state law.
The PWFA prohibits discrimination with regard to reasonable accommodations related to known limitations of pregnancy. Therefore, it is unlawful for a Covered Employer to (i) not make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions ; (ii) require a Qualified Employee to accept an accommodation other than one that is reasonable and arrived at through an interactive process; (iii) deny employment opportunities to a Qualified Employee if the reason is the employee’s need for reasonable accommodations; (iv) require a Qualified Employee to take leave if a reasonable accommodation can be made instead; and (v) take adverse action if a Qualified Employee makes a request or is using the reasonable accommodation.
The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) provides some samples of reasonable accommodations for known limitations including closer parking, flex hours, additional break time for bathroom, eating or rest; time off to recover from childbirth; excused from strenuous activity. It is anticipated that a Covered Employer and a Qualified Employee would likely have a discussion about what the reasonable accommodation would be for these known limitations. The EEOC has indicated it will begin accepting charges made for violations on and after June 27, 2023.
It is important to note that The PWFA does not replace federal, state, or local laws that provide better protection to employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. For further information regarding the PWFA, go to www.eeoc.gov.
This post is only a brief summary of the PWFA and does not constitute legal advice nor does it establish an attorney/client relationship. Should you have specific questions regarding the above, please contact Bonnie C. Coleman or Steven J. Scott at Hodges and Davis, P.C.