In December, Congress passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The new law takes effect Tuesday, June 27, and it applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Under current federal law, companies cannot discriminate on the basis of pregnancy, but they are not required to accommodate pregnant employees or pregnancy complications unless they rise to the level of a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The PWFA adds to those protections, essentially requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers to allow them to continue working. These accommodations could include changes to work schedules or work duties, or modifications such as allowing pregnant workers to sit or take additional breaks during working time.
The PWFA's protections are modeled on the ADA’s accommodation provisions. The employer must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers unless they present an undue hardship to the company. Employers should use their current ADA accommodation procedures to evaluate and document their responses to pregnant employee accommodation requests. Employees who have recently been denied accommodations based on pregnancy can renew these requests after Tuesday under the auspices of the PWFA. Employers faced with requests for reconsideration should guide their responses based on the new law’s requirements.
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