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  • Writer's pictureNathalee Jennings

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: What Employers Need to Know

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that aims to protect the rights of pregnant workers by requiring covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations for limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Understanding the PWFA

The PWFA expands on current federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, the PUMP Act, title VII, and the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 establishing that covered employers must provide “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant employees unless doing so would result in undue hardship for the employer. This means that employers cannot discriminate against pregnant employees and must make necessary adjustments to support their health and well-being during pregnancy.

The Act emphasizes that the provision of accommodations is not meant to replace existing federal, state, or local laws that may provide even greater protections for pregnant employees. Instead, the PWFA sets a baseline for minimum accommodations that employers must adhere to. The PWFA will go into effect on June 27, 2023. Covered employers, which typically include those with 15 or more employees, will need to be prepared to comply with the law by this date. Employers should be aware that there currently 30 states or municipalities with laws that protect employees who are pregnant or nursing.

Advice for Employers on Next Steps

Review and Update Policies: Employers should review their existing policies to ensure they align with the provisions of the PWFA. Policies should clearly state the right to reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees and provide guidelines for requesting and implementing such accommodations. Update policies to reflect the new law and ensure they are easily accessible to all employees.

Train Managers: Educating managers on the requirements of the PWFA is essential to ensure consistent implementation and avoid potential discrimination or misunderstandings. Training should cover recognizing accommodation requests, understanding the undue hardship exception, and fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment.

Develop Accommodation Procedures: Establish clear procedures for employees

to request accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Designate a point person or department responsible for handling these requests and ensure employees are aware of the process and their rights under the PWFA.

Assess Reasonable Accommodations: Each accommodation request should be evaluated on an individual basis. Employers should engage in an interactive process with the employee to identify suitable accommodations that do not cause undue hardship to the business. Examples of accommodations may include modified work schedules, temporary job restructuring, or the provision of additional breaks.

Document Accommodation Requests and Actions Taken: It is crucial to maintain thorough documentation of accommodation requests, discussions, and the actions taken by the employer. This documentation serves as evidence of compliance and can be helpful in addressing any potential legal issues that may arise.

Consult Legal Counsel or HR Professionals: Seeking guidance from legal counsel or HR professionals with expertise in employment law and compliance can provide valuable assistance in navigating the complexities of the PWFA. They can help ensure that policies, procedures, and practices align with the requirements of the law.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act represents a significant step forward in safeguarding the rights of pregnant employees and ensuring they receive reasonable accommodations to support their well-being during pregnancy. Employers must familiarize themselves with the Act, review, and update policies, provide appropriate training, and establish clear procedures for accommodation requests. By embracing the PWFA, businesses can foster a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment for pregnant workers while maintaining compliance with the law.

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