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Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act Goes into Effect

The Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) requires employers with at least 15 employees to provide "reasonable accommodations" to workers' "known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." Where an accommodation will cause an employer an "undue hardship" (recently defined by the U.S. Supreme Court), employers may not have to provide the accommodation. The new law does not impact prior Title VII anti-discrimination protections based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. In addition, state laws providing more protections for workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, are not limited by the new law.

Congress passed the law in late 2022. Many women have experienced challenges at work because employers were not required to make any adjustments based on a worker's pregnancy or childbirth. A BiPartisan Policy Center poll revealed that 23% of mothers considered leaving their jobs because they did not receive accommodations while pregnant or feared discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says one-third of the 2000 pregnancy discrimination complaints received over the last year indicated a lack of reasonable accommodation.

The new law will provide protection for women undergoing fertility treatments, those experiencing post-partum depression, and those who have abortions or pregnancy loss. According to the House Committee on Education and Labor Report on the PWFA, accommodations may include the ability to sit or drink water; receiving closer parking; having flexible hours; receiving appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel; receiving additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest; taking leave time to recover from childbirth; and being excused from strenuous activities or unsafe working conditions. Employers must discuss the accommodation with the worker and may not retaliate.