The Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act Regulation Goes Into Effect

The Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) was passed in June 2023, to fill the gaps between federal, state, and local law with the goal of providing greater protection to pregnant and postpartum employees. While the law was immediately effective, an implementing regulation was necessary to provide additional direction on compliance. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued the regulation in April 2024 and it will go into effect on June 18, 2024. The PWFA and other laws remove hurdles for pregnant or postpartum workers who need reasonable accommodations at work. More information about these laws can be found here

The PWFA covers qualified employees, applicants, and former employees at companies with more than 15 employees. These workers are “qualified” if they can perform the essential functions of the employment position with or without reasonable accommodation, or if the essential function that cannot be performed is only a temporary situation and could be performed in the near future. 

Under the PWFA, employers: 

  • Must make reasonable accommodations for known limitations unless the accommodation would cause an undue hardship. 
  • Cannot require the employee to accept an accommodation that was not reached through the interactive process. 
  • Cannot deny a job or other employment opportunities to a qualified employee or applicant based on the person’s need for a reasonable accommodation under the PWFA. 
  • Cannot require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided that would allow the employee to keep working. 
  • Cannot punish or retaliate against an employee or applicant for requesting a reasonable accommodation, reporting discrimination, opposing discrimination, or participating in a proceeding under the PWFA. 
  • Cannot coerce individuals who are exercising their rights under the PWFA nor individuals that are assisting others exercise their rights under the PWFA. 

Reasonable accommodations may include longer breaks, flexible policies about having food or water at their workstations, sitting down rather than standing, dress code variations, providing personal protective equipment  that fits, changing worker start and end times or extending breaks, telework, reassignment, temporary suspension of non-essential job duties, time off for health care appointments, lifting restrictions, and leave for recovery from pregnancy-childbirth-related conditions. 

The ”undue hardship” analysis that is used to determine if an accommodation is reasonable is the same as the analysis used with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodations. In fact, much of the PWFA tracks with the ADA. The PWFA was passed as separate legislation because pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions are not necessarily considered disabilities that would be covered by the ADA. 

The “known limitation” under the PWFA is “A physical or mental condition related to, affected by, or arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” This encompasses situations such as morning sickness, heat sensitivity, and episodic impediments or problems such as migraines. It can also include the inability to be around certain chemicals. 

The term “related conditions” extends to situations involving miscarriage, recovery from vaginal or surgical childbirth, postpartum depression, edema, placenta previa, and lactation. 

In limited, reasonable, circumstances, an employer can require documented information from a health care provider about the condition for which an accommodation has been requested. These circumstances include lifting restrictions, needs to attend healthcare appointments, or other impediments to carrying out their normal responsibilities. This information cannot be requested when it is unreasonable – for instance, when a larger uniform is requested for a pregnant employee, or frequent bathroom breaks are needed. Employers cannot request that the employee be examined by a health care provider selected by the employer. The health care provider can be asked to confirm that the limitations are a physical or mental condition related to, or arising from, pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, as well as the expected duration of the limitation. 

In this article Adriane Harrison, VP of Human Relations Consulting, PRINTING United Alliance, addresses the new federal regulation for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. More information about labor and employment laws and regulations can be found at the Center for Human Resources Support or reach out to Adriane directly if you have additional questions specific to how these issues may affect your business at: aharrison@printing.org.     

To become a member of the Alliance and learn more about how our subject matter experts can assist your company with services and resources such as those mentioned in this article, please contact the Alliance membership team: 888-385-3588 / membership@printing.org 

Adriane Harrison Vice President, Human Relations Consulting

Adriane Harrison is the Vice President of Human Relations Consulting at PRINTING United Alliance. With a background in law, business, and non-profit sectors, Adriane brings a wealth of knowledge to address issues across all aspects of human resources. Adriane is a relatable speaker that uses interactive techniques to provide understandable strategies for HR success. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Journalism), and DePaul University College of Law.

Speaking Topics:

  • How to Manage a Multi-generational Workforce
  • Employee Engagement
  • Managing Legal and Illegal Drugs in the Workplace
  • Telling Your Story – Marketing for Recruitment
  • Creating a Flexible Workplace
  • Recruiting and Retaining a Modern Workforce
  • How to be a Best Workplace in the Printing Industry
  • Current HR Issues
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