Beginning June 2023, pregnant employees throughout the country will now have federal rights to “reasonable accommodations” in the workplace. These will be similar to what employers are required to provide disabled workers under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The new law, which is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), was approved as part of the recent funding bill passed by Congress and signed by President Biden. This came after more than a decade of work by advocates and lawmakers.
What’s new about the PWFA?
Currently, pregnant employees have some federal protections under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. However, as the name indicates, this law primarily protects pregnant workers from discrimination just as other protected classes are protected under federal and state laws.
Some states, as well as Washington, D.C., have additional laws that mandate certain accommodations for pregnant and nursing employees. The PWFA will require any employer with at least 15 employees to provide reasonable accommodations for those who need them due to “pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.” It also contains language that protects employees from discrimination related to pregnancy and childbirth.
What are reasonable accommodations?
These “reasonable accommodations” include things like:
- Protecting workers from having to lift and carry heavy loads
- Allowing them to have more frequent restroom breaks
As with the ADA, “reasonable accommodations” involve any accommodation that can be made without causing “undue hardship” for the employer’s operations.
For federal workers, the new law will be enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If your employer isn’t abiding by the law once it goes into effect and you aren’t able to remedy the situation with them, it may be wise to report the matter to the EEOC. Having experienced legal guidance can improve your chances of success.