Important Update: New Federal Employment Law

July 25, 2023

Important Update: New Federal Employment Law

To our BestDayHR community,

There is a new law that you most likely need to be aware of, may need to implement, and may cause you to consider updating your employee handbook and employer workplace posters. The law is called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA).

So, what exactly is the PWFA? Well, it requires covered employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to workers who have known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. These accommodations should be provided unless they would cause the employer an “undue hardship.” It’s important to note that existing laws already make it illegal to fire or discriminate against workers based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The PWFA specifically focuses on accommodations.

The PWFA doesn’t replace any federal, state, or local laws that provide even more protection for workers affected by pregnancy. In fact, there are already over 30 states and cities that have their own laws mandating accommodations for pregnant workers. So, the PWFA works alongside these existing laws to ensure pregnant workers are treated fairly.

The PWFA went into effect on June 27, 2023. So, starting from June 27, 2023, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will begin accepting charges related to the PWFA. However, for the PWFA to apply, the situation complained about in the charge must have occurred on or after June 27, 2023.

Now, who exactly does the PWFA protect? It covers employees and applicants of “covered employers.” These employers include private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees. It also includes Congress, federal agencies, employment agencies, and labor organizations.

Let’s talk about reasonable accommodations. These are changes that employers may need to make to the work environment or the way things are done to support pregnant workers. The House Committee on Education and Labor Report on the PWFA gives us some examples of these accommodations. They include things like the ability to sit or drink water, receiving closer parking, having flexible hours, getting appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel, having additional break time for bathroom breaks, eating, and resting, taking leave to recover from childbirth, and being excused from strenuous activities or those involving exposure to unsafe compounds during pregnancy. Employers are required to provide these reasonable accommodations unless they would cause significant difficulty or expense, which is known as an “undue hardship.”

Lastly, let’s go over what the PWFA prohibits. Covered employers cannot force an employee to accept an accommodation without discussing it first. They also can’t deny job opportunities based on the need for an accommodation, or require an employee to take leave if there’s an alternative accommodation that allows them to keep working.

If your handbook needs a tune-up, or you have questions of how to implement this law, please let us know if we can help.

Your friends at BestDayHR

P.S. – here is a helpful link with further information