New law to offer additional employment protections to pregnant workers, applicants

Pregnant worker giving a presentation

As part of the comprehensive Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, President Biden recently signed into law the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The PWFA, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees, aims to provide additional protections to pregnant workers beyond those provided under both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The PWFA becomes effective June 27, 2023.

The PWFA covers the known limitations of pregnant workers, meaning any physical or mental condition related to, affected by, or arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions that have been communicated to the employer. Known limitations are covered even if they do not meet the definition of a disability under the ADA. The Act provides protections to employees and applicants for employment without any waiting periods.

The Act makes it unlawful for an employer to:

  • Not make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of a qualified individual, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship;
  • Require a qualified individual to accept an accommodation that is not a reasonable one arrived at through the interactive process;
  • Deny employment opportunities to a qualified individual if the denial is based on the need of the employer to provide reasonable accommodations;
  • Require a qualified individual to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided; or
  • Take adverse employment actions against a qualified individual on account of the individual’s request or use of a reasonable accommodation.

Employers may avoid certain damages under the Act by demonstrating “good faith efforts” in consulting with the qualified individual to provide a reasonable accommodation that would result in equally effective job opportunities and that wouldn’t cause undue hardship to the employer.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency responsible for enforcement of this Act, will be issuing regulations within a year to further explain the requirements of the PWFA.

While covered employers still have all obligations to comply with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the PWFA appears to be more focused on providing accommodations to those pregnant workers and applicants who are not legally disabled and who may only require temporary accommodations in order to perform the essential functions of their job.

Do not hesitate to contact your McAfee & Taft labor and employment attorney to discuss implementing a PWFA policy that complies with the new law.