Beginning on June 27, 2023, employers in all states must begin accommodating pregnant employees in exactly the same way that the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA") requires for disabled employees, even if the pregnant employee is not disabled (as defined under the ADA) due to her pregnancy. The federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act ("PWFA") was passed in December as part of the omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act. The PWFA requires employers to engage in the interactive process of discussion of possible accommodations for the needs of pregnant employees, unless the proposed accommodation would result in an undue hardship. The PWFA expands the rights of pregnant employees to job adjustments for their pregnancy, because under prior federal law pregnancy was not considered in itself a disability. Accommodation was only required when the pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition qualified as a disability under the ADA. As a consequence of the PWFA, employers will be required to interact more extensively and more liberally with all pregnant employees regarding requested adjustments to job requirements. At the same time, Congress also passed the PUMP Act, which expands the rights of employees to break times for expressing breast milk. The federal PWFA was preceded by similar legislation in some states, such as Massachusetts, and does not preempt state laws if they provide even more rights to pregnant employees. The PWFA was under consideration prior to last year, but had not been passed by both the House and Senate until it was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act.
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Federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Arrives
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Under the new law, which will not go into effect until June 2023, employers with 15 or more employees will be required to provide reasonable accommodations for qualified employees and job applicants with temporary physical or mental limitations due to pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions. Employees and applicants are qualified if they, with or without a reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position. An individual is still qualified if the inability to perform an essential function is for a temporary period, the essential function could be performed in the near future, and the inability to perform the essential function can be reasonably accommodated. The PWFA, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), obligates employers to provide reasonable accommodations unless doing so imposes an undue hardship.
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