Last week, federal legislation intended to clarify and expand protections for pregnant employees passed the House of Representatives. The Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act has been introduced each term since 2012, but this year the measure finally received House approval with significant bipartisan support.
Of course, Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act already provide protections against workplace discrimination for pregnant employees and applicants. The new measure would expand these rights by making clear that employers must make reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant applicants and employees that allow them to perform the essential functions of their jobs. This reasonable accommodation concept is borrowed from the Americans with Disabilities Act, and would allow employers to deny accommodations that present an undue hardship. Some pregnancy complications may already be considered ADA disabilities, but the bill would expand this concept to pregnancy issues that do not rise to this level.
The large majority of House members voting for this bill may signal similar support for the legislation in the Senate. Employers should monitor the progress of this legislation, and be prepared to expand their ADA policies and interactive accommodation process for pregnant workers in the event it becomes law.