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Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is federal legislation that expands the protections for employees with limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. The law requires employers to grant these workers reasonable accommodations unless the accommodations will cause undue hardship. Ultimately, this act allows the employee to keep doing their job while protecting their health.

What is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)?

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is federal legislation that expands the protections for employees with limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. The law requires employers to grant these workers reasonable accommodations unless the accommodations will cause undue hardship. Ultimately, this act allows the employee to keep doing their job while protecting their health.

When Does the PWFA Go Into Effect?

PWFA went into effect on June 27, 2023. EEOC started accepting charges at this date. For the PWFA to apply, the complaints must have happened on this date or later.

Who is Covered by the PWFA?

The law applies to employers with 15 or more employees. It includes both private and public sectors, congress, federal agencies, employment agencies and labor organizations. It covers employees who need accommodations due to pregnancy, having just given birth, or having other medical conditions related to pregnancy.

Why is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Important?

The PWFA is important for many different reasons, such as the following.
  • Prevents discrimination. The PWFA helps to eliminate discrimination against pregnant employees to ensure they are treated fairly in the workplace.
  • Promotes gender equality. The PWFA contributes to gender equality by enabling women to continue working without fear of backlash from their employer or health problems arising due to their work.
  • Supports health. The PWFA encourages reasonable accommodations which will positively impact both the physical and mental health of pregnant workers and their child.
  • Protects families from financial hardship. Pregnant workers have often been forced to take unpaid leave or have been fired due to needing modifications. This results in a loss of income and often imposes significant financial hardship

Employee Rights and Protections Under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

There are many rights and protections that are extended to women under the PWFA.

Reasonable Accommodations

Employers must make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions, such as providing light duty or labor, more frequent breaks, modified work schedules, or assistance with lifting heavy objects.

Prevents Discrimination

Employers are prohibited from discriminating against pregnant employees in hiring, firing or any other employment-related decisions.

Good-Faith Conversations

Employers must have a good-faith conversation with a worker seeking reasonable accommodations. Employers must respond to requests and engage in a conversation promptly, though this does not mean they have to provide the exact accommodation requested.

Examples of Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Employees

There are many things an employer can do to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees. Below are some of the more common examples.

Temporary Job Restructuring

This can consist of modifying work duties or responsibilities during the pregnancy.

Flexible Work Hours

Another example of an accommodation is allowing the employee to adjust their work hours to accommodate prenatal medical appointments.

Access to a Private Sector

Employers can provide a private area for breastfeeding or expressing breast milk as an accommodation for nursing mothers.

Best Practices for Compliance with the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

To ensure compliance with the PWFA, employers should considering implementing the following best practices:

Educate Employees

Employers should educate all employees by providing training and information about their rights and responsibilities under the PWFA. This could be done through a resource page, training for leaders, etc.

Review Policies

Employers should regularly review and update company policies to align with PWFA requirements. They should also look into state and local laws to ensure that they are also complying with any additional requirements.

Open Communication

Employers should encourage open communication between employees and supervisors to address accommodation requests promptly and effectively. Leaders can set the example by creating a positive workplace culture.

Other Laws that Protect Pregnant Workers

There are other federal laws in addition to the PWFA that extend protections to pregnant employees. The PWFA does not replace any state or local laws that are more protective of these workers. For this reason, both employers and employees should be aware of state and local laws.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. This provides covered employees with unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons.
  • The PUMP Act. This act expands workplace protections for employees to express breast milk at work.
  • The ADA. This law protects employees from discrimination based on disabilities. Some pregnancy-related conditions are considered to be disabilities under the law.
Title VII. As amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Title VII prohibits sex discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination.
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Katie Bahr

Katie Bahr

Katie is currently studying at BYU, with a HRM major and Statistics minor. She works there as an HR research assistant and also works as an HR Generalist at a local company, and both jobs provide her with a wide variety of experiences. Katie's passion lies in HR and People Analytics, where she can discover and use data to help everyone understand and improve the workplace for a universal benefit.
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