May 15, 2024

Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act Regulation Set to Take Effect June 18, 2024

Over thirty states, including New York, have protections for pregnant workers against employment discrimination written into state law. Last year, new protections for these workers went into effect at the federal level. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), effective June 27, 2023, requires covered employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to qualifying employees’ “known limitations related to, affected by, or arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions,” unless it would cause the employer “undue hardship.” As of that date, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), which is tasked with enforcing the PWFA, began accepting charges of violations of the Act. The final regulation for implementation of the EEOC goes into effect on June 18, 2024, and can be accessed here.

Examples of reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers include physical adjustments, such as providing an employee with a stool or lightening manual labor, or the option to telecommute or go on leave. The EEOC has more examples of reasonable accommodations, as well as examples of “limitations” for which they may be needed, on its website. An employee begins the “interactive process” with their employer of determining a reasonable accommodation once they communicate their limitation to their employer. 

The PWFA applies to public and private employers with 15 or more employees. Importantly, the Act’s protective scope goes beyond other federal laws that make it illegal to terminate someone for being pregnant (though pregnant workers may continue to bring EEOC charges under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act). The Act does not purport to displace any state protections for pregnant workers that may be stronger than the PWFA itself. However, it is meaningful for states that do not presently provide such protections to pregnant people, thousands of whom have experienced discrimination in the workplace.

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