The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The new Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) provides pregnant workers with options for reasonable accommodations to continue their employment without risking their health or the health of their unborn child. The act, which took effect in June of 2023, is a critical supplement to existing laws that currently protect against pregnancy discrimination.

Key Provisions of the PWFA

Similar to Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the PWFA applies to employers with 15 or more employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for issuing regulations to implement and enforce the act. Under the PWFA, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation will cause the employer to suffer “undue hardship.”

The PWFA borrows the same definitions of “reasonable accommodation” and “undue hardship” as utilized under the Americans with Disabilities Act. “Reasonable accommodations” are changes to the typical work environment or work process. An “undue hardship” is one that cause a significant difficulty or expense for the employer. Suggested accommodations might include: additional break times, flexible hours, uniform modifications, or excuse from strenuous activity or unsafe exposures.

For employers, the PWFA mandates a balance between the needs of the business and the health of their employees. It encourages a collaborative approach to find suitable accommodations that do not impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business. For employees, the act provides a clear legal framework that supports their right to work and maintain a safe and healthy pregnancy.