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► New Law Offers More Protections To Pregnant Workers

As part of the comprehensive Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, President Joe Biden recently signed into law the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The Act, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees, aims to provide additional protections to pregnant workers beyond those provided under both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The PWFA becomes effective June 27, 2023.

What the Act Does

The PWFA covers the known limitations of pregnant workers, meaning any physical or mental condition related to, affected by, or arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions that have been communicated to the employer. Known limitations are covered even if they don’t meet the definition of a disability under the ADA. The Act provides protections to employees and applicants for employment without any waiting periods.

The Act makes it unlawful for an employer to:

  • Avoid making reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of a qualified individual, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship;
  • Require a qualified individual to accept an accommodation that’s not a reasonable one arrived at through the interactive process;
  • Deny employment opportunities to a qualified individual if the denial is based on the need of the employer to provide reasonable accommodations;
  • Require a qualified individual to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided; or
  • Take adverse employment actions against a qualified individual on account of the individual’s request or use of a reasonable accommodation.

Employers may avoid certain damages under the Act by demonstrating “good-faith efforts” in consulting with the qualified individual to provide a reasonable accommodation that would result in equally effective job opportunities and that wouldn’t cause undue hardship to the employer.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency responsible for enforcement of the Act, will be issuing regulations within a year to further explain the requirements of the PWFA.

Bottom Line

Although covered employers still have all obligations to comply with the PDA and the ADA, the PWFA appears to be more focused on providing accommodations to pregnant workers and applicants who aren’t legally disabled and who may only require temporary accommodations to perform the essential functions of their job.

By Paige Hoster Good. Ms. Good is an attorney in the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, office of McAfee & Taft. Good is a trial attorney who represents employers in all phases of labor and employment law, including litigation before state and federal courts, regulatory and administrative agencies, and arbitration panels.


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