UncategorizedMay 1, 20240

Expecting Change: The Impact of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

In today’s rapidly evolving legal landscape, staying informed is crucial. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which was effective June 27, 2023, marks a significant milestone in safeguarding the rights of expectant employees and applicants and it requires leaders to adapt their policies accordingly. On April 15, 2024, the EEOC issued final regulations for employers to use in implementing the provisions. It’s important to note that the PWFA does not replace any federal, state, or local laws that are more protective of employees or applicants. The PWFA applies to any public or private employer with 15 or more employees, unions, employment agencies, and the Federal Government.

Like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the PWFA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless the accommodation would cause undue hardship to the employer. The limitation does not need to meet the definition of a disability under the ADA. Another important distinction is the definition of “pregnancy related condition”. Breastfeeding status is something that we think about frequently, and there are several others that employers should be intentionally thoughtful about such as conditions arising from pregnancy loss among other reproductive health needs.

These accommodations under PWFA would typically be temporary in nature; however, if a long-term medical condition arose, employers would then need to consider regulations under ADA. While accommodations under PWFA are available to employees, it’s important that an employer not force an accommodation on an employee who has not asked for one. Therefore, the PWFA highlights the importance of proactive communication and transparency between employers and employees regarding their rights and entitlements under the law.

Because of the temporary nature of most known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions, employers should expect to consider a broader scope of accommodations as they relate to an employee performing essential job functions. For example, an employer may be able to accommodate an employee by temporarily stopping certain job functions and allowing them to resume at a later date, or temporarily reassigning an employee. In the final ruling, there were four accommodations named that were considered “predictable assessments” which in nearly all circumstances would not qualify as an “undue hardship” to an employer. These included additional restrooms breaks, ability to carry and drink water while working, breaks to eat and drink, and sitting instead of standing or standing instead of sitting while performing work.

The implementation of the PWFA presents an opportunity for organizations to reaffirm their commitment to workplace equity and inclusivity. By embracing the principles of fairness, flexibility, and compassion, leaders can navigate the complexities of the new legislation while fostering a positive and supportive work environment for all employees, regardless of their pregnancy status. If your company wants more information on ensuring compliance with the PWFA, The People Perspective is available to provide support.

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