On December 29, 2022, President Biden signed a government funding bill into law that included the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA). The PWFA becomes effective on June 27, 2023 and will require employers with 15 or more workers to provide pregnant employees with temporary, reasonable accommodations necessary to fulfill their essential job functions. The PWFA also will prohibit employers from taking adverse action against an employee or a job applicant due to her need for a reasonable pregnancy accommodation.
The PWFA uses the same definition of reasonable accommodation as the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and provides similar protections to workers who are members of a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In that sense, the PWFA is building upon an established legal trend that requires workplace accommodations to those in need so that they may perform their essential job functions without being exposed to termination or adverse employment action.
Previously, Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prevents employers from taking adverse employment actions against job applicants or employees due to their pregnancy; however, it does not include any guarantee of accommodation. Pregnant employees were only given access to the possibility of an accommodation as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 575 U.S. 206 (2015). The PWFA codifies the reasonable accommodation obligation of employers.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) is responsible for enforcement of the PWFA and will publish guidance for employers on what it means to make a reasonable accommodation for a pregnant employee. Experience indicates that the EEOC will seek to broadly extend a wide array of reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees in the workplace. While many of these accommodations will be familiar to employers from the ADA, such as lighter workloads, others will be more unique to the needs of pregnant women, such as more frequent bathroom breaks, siting for jobs that typically require standing, and more frequent leaves of absence from work.
In advance of the June 27, 2023 implementation date, employers should review existing policies and practices concerning accommodation and educate managers and human resources staff on a company’s obligations under the PWFA. McMahon Berger, P.C. will continue to monitor developments concerning the PWFA and provide updates as they occur.
The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters for over sixty years and are available to discuss these issues and others. As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.