What is the Federal Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act?

April 26, 2023

Congress recently passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) which becomes effective June 27, 2023. The PWFA provides on-the-job accommodation for workers by extending protections grounded from the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the PWFA extends protections to employees to the “known limitations relating to pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions.” The PWFA does not specify what “known limitations” are but states it must be a “physical or mental condition.”

Through the PWFA, a federal avenue of reasonable accommodations would be provided for employees. Such accommodations include:

  • More frequent and longer bathroom breaks
  • Breaks to express breast milk
  • Access to private location other than a bathroom for the expression of breast milk
  • Receiving parking accessibility
  • Being excused from strenuous activities, and
  • Receiving appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel.

Such accommodations can help employers ensure the accommodations their workers need, while maintaining the necessary functions of the job. The PFWA will also require an interactive communication process with the employee to be the tool used to determine reasonable accommodation for the employee.

Lastly, the PWFA will also prohibit employers from:

  • Denying employment opportunities to covered employees “based on the need to make reasonable accommodations;”
  • Requiring covered employees to “take leave, whether paid or unpaid” if another reasonable accommodation can be provided.

However, like other federal labor statutes, the PWFA still allows employers to deny accommodations to employees if such accommodations pose an “undue hardship” to the employer. Undue hardships under the PWFA will be similar to the ADA’s definition of undue hardship, which is understood as an accommodation that would cause a significant expense or difficulty to the employer. Other considerations in determining an undue hardship are the reasonable costs of the accommodation, the facility size of the employer, the number of employees, and the types of operations.

Since undue hardship is determined on a case-by-case basis, employers can reach out to us to assess what accommodations are appropriate to particular situations.

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