Pregnant workers will have new workplace protections this summer. Lawmakers recently reevaluated current protections and found them lacking. As a result, they drafted and approved a revision to help update these protections.
What is the new law?
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to workers who have limitations due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions if the accommodations do not cause “undue hardship” to the employer. Examples of reasonable accommodations can include:
- Water breaks
- A closer, designated parking spot
- Flexible hours
- Temporary exclusion from strenuous activities like heavy lifting
Undue hardships for the employer can include accommodations that would pose a significant expense for the employer. An employer accused of failing to provide reasonable accommodations or retaliation for a report of such a failure can face penalties for violating this law.
How is this different from current law?
Federal law currently makes it illegal for covered employers to fire or discriminate against a worker based on their pregnancy status. This law extends these protections to include reasonable accommodations.
How do I ask for an accommodation?
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides guidance and encourages workers to talk openly with their employers to explain their condition before making suggestions.
When does the new federal law go into effect?
The law goes into effect on June 27, 2023, and applies to situations that happen on or after that date. This does not mean that those who are the subject of discrimination based on pregnancy status before this date are out of luck. As noted above, legal recourse is still available for illegal termination or other forms of discrimination. Other laws may also provide additional protection, including Title VII and the ADA.
These matters are not easy to navigate. Those who believe they are the victim of pregnancy or other forms of illegal workplace discrimination should contact legal counsel to discuss the issue and potential legal recourse.