At the end of June, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) went into effect. Overseen by the EEOC, which will be responsible for reviewing complaints filed by workers, the PWFA provides wide-ranging protections to pregnant workers, who have long experienced workplace discrimination. The Act applies to all private and public sector employers with 15 or more workers.
Signed into law in 2022 by President Biden, the PWFA includes guidelines for reasonable accommodations for “known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” unless they cause “undue hardship” for employers. The PWFA extends the protections laid out in Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act, but it will not supersede any federal, state, or local law that provides more protection for pregnant workers.
Specific examples of reasonable accommodations cited by Congress include things like preferential parking, better fitting uniforms, more flexible hours, and excuse from strenuous activities that might complicate pregnancy. Other scenarios the PWFA restricts include denial of employment to a qualified pregnant applicant, requiring an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be made, and employer retaliation against a worker reporting discrimination circumscribed by the PWFA.
In addition to the EEOC’s new powers, the commission is also tasked with creating increased awareness for the PWFA in the workplace. This includes creating new fact sheets, guidance for how to file a complaint and a “Know Your Rights” video series and accompanying revised posters to be displayed at the workplace.
The PWFA is one of several new federal-level policies, along with the PUMP Act, aimed at pregnant and new parents. The PUMP Act, which is also a significant boost to new mothers rights in the workplace, allows for accommodation and support for lactating mothers. Both laws will affect the Berke-Weiss as they touch on many of the core areas of our practice.