Paper Trails

What is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?

Legislatures have recently passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.  Let’s take a look at what the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is.

What is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) will take effect on June 27th, 2023.  This new legislation enhances existing protections for pregnant employees.  These protections are under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Under Title VII, discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or other related conditions is unlawful.  Under the ADA, discrimination based on pregnancy-related conditions that rise to the level of a disability is unlawful.

The PWFA no longer requires employees to prove their pregnancy, childbirth, or related condition rises to the level of a disability to receive “reasonable accommodations.” Once effective, the PWFA will require employers to furnish reasonable accommodations to employees with limitations based on pregnancy, childbirth, or other related conditions, so long as the accommodations do not pose an “undue hardship” on the employer.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

After determining essential job duties, employers must provide accommodation to an individual with a disability to perform that duty. Examples of reasonable accommodations can include:

  • A manager providing verbal feedback, rather than written, for an employee who has trouble reading.
  • An employer changing their no animal policy, in order to welcome an employee’s service animal.
  • A business providing accessible parking to those employees that have difficulty walking.

For pregnancy, childbirth, or other related conditions, reasonable accommodations can include:

  • Reduction in physical work.
  • Breastfeeding or pumping stations.
  • Schedule adjustments for doctors appointments.

What is undue hardship?

Covered employers may be able to avoid making reasonable accommodations if it causes an undue hardship. An undue hardship is defined as action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considering an organization’s size, financial resources and the nature and structure of its’ operation.

How are businesses affected by the PWFA?

Businesses that are subject to this law are those in both the public and private sectors.  Further, businesses must have 15 or more employees.  Employers may not deny employment opportunities based on an employee’s or applicant’s need for reasonable accommodations because of a pregnancy, childbirth, or other related conditions. Employers are prohibited from forcing employees to take leave if other reasonable accommodations are available. Lastly, an employer may not take adverse actions against employees on the basis of their request for a reasonable accommodation.

What to do next

Businesses should take the following steps to ensure compliance with this new requirement.

  • Add a pregnancy accommodations policy to your handbook if you don’t already have one.
  • If you’re subject to a state law that provides similar accommodations, make sure your policy captures the most employee-friendly aspects of the applicable laws.
  • Ensure that managers are aware of the law and types of accommodations that may be required.