Employers should be ready by June 27, 2023, to comply with the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”), signed into law by President Biden last December. The PWFA requires covered employers, including private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees, employment agencies, and labor organizations, to provide reasonable accommodations to a worker’s known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation will cause the employer an undue hardship. An “undue hardship” is significant difficulty or expense for the employer. The Act protects applicants, as well as employees, who have known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
The Act’s legislative history provides various examples of possible reasonable accommodations, such as the ability to sit or drink water; receive closer parking; have flexible hours; receive appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel; receive additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest; take leave or time off to recover from childbirth; and be excused from strenuous activities and/or activities that involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy.
Employers must engage in a discussion about the accommodation with the individual and cannot deny a job or other employment opportunities to a qualified individual based on the person's need for a reasonable accommodation. In addition, an employer cannot require an employee to take leave if there is another accommodation available that would allow the employee to continue working. Finally, employers cannot retaliate against an individual for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination under the Act or participating in a proceeding, such as an investigation.
As the PWFA becomes effective, the Taylor English Labor & Employment Practice Group will be keeping close tabs on significant developments.