Consider the following scenarios:
Now consider a pregnant employee in any of these three situations who needs a leave of absence for the employee's limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. What are your legal obligations?
Until June 27, 2023, the answer was grey and depended on whether your treatment of comparably limited non-pregnant employees in similar situations could be perceived as pregnancy discrimination against the pregnant worker. On June 27, however, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (which President Biden signed late last year) goes into effect, dramatically altering the legal obligations of most employers to its pregnant workers.
The PWFA requires any employer with 15 or more employees to provide "reasonable accommodations" to an employee's known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (unless the accommodation will cause the employer an "undue hardship," defined as a significant difficulty or expense for the employer).
What reasonable accommodations does the PWFA contemplate? According to the EEOC, potential accommodations include:
Similar to reasonable accommodations for disabled employees, the key here is communication. Once a pregnant worker requests a pregnancy accommodation, an employer must engage in the interactive process with the worker to determine the proper accommodation for the employee. An employer cannot, for example, require an employee to accept an accommodation without a discussion about the accommodation or require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided that would let the employee keep working.
An employer also cannot deny a job or other employment opportunity to a qualified employee or applicant based on the person's need for a reasonable accommodation, nor can it retaliate against an individual for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination under the PWFA or participating in a PWFA proceeding such as an investigation.
Finally, the PWFA requires you to update your workplace EEOC poster, which the agency provides for free download here.
The PWFA is a significant change to employers' legal obligations under Title VII to its pregnant workers. You have less than seven days to prepare, including making sure your supervisors and managers are aware of this new law and the obligations it imposes, and updating your reasonable accommodation policies. The clock is ticking.
To discuss bringing your business's workplace reasonable accommodation policies and practices into compliance with the PWFA, contact any of WHP's employment lawyers:
This article provides an overview and summary of the matters described therein. It is not intended to be and should not be construed as legal advice on the particular subject.