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Are You Equipped to Accommodate Your Pregnant Employees?

May 30, 2024

Stacey Torres

On June 18, 2024, the final rule and interpretive guidance supporting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”) will go into effect. The PWFA requires a “covered entity” (defined as a public or private employer with 15 or more employees, unions, employment agencies, and the Federal Government) to provide reasonable accommodations in the workplace to employees who are affected by, or who have limitations due to pregnancy, childbirth or other related medical conditions. Although the PFWA was passed in December 2022, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) was required to implement regulations to help implement the rule and illustrate the provisions in the regulations.

In addition to requiring reasonable accommodations, the PWFA prohibits employers from requiring employees to accept an accommodation if there is a more reasonable accommodation available; it prohibits the denial of employment opportunities; it prohibits employers from requiring an employee to take a leave of absence; it prohibits an employer from retaliating against employees who request reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy and childbirth; and it prohibits discrimination against employees for availing themselves under the protections of the PWFA.

As detailed in the EEOC’s regulations, some reasonable accommodations may include accessibility to the workplace, modified work schedules, the ability to use paid leave, short-term disability or another employer benefit, the ability to use unpaid leave, accommodations for nursing, and temporary suspension of an essential function in the workplace, just to name a few. For example, if an employee is denied a request to undergo infertility treatments and then penalized for taking time off work for such procedure, this could be an inference of unlawful sex discrimination and violate the PWFA. Conversely, an employee needing a D&C procedure may also be protected for such time off under the PWFA. Other examples of accommodations can be found on the Federal Register’s website here .

Employers who violate the PWFA may be subject to fines, penalties, and monetary damages. However, employers may be able to defend their inability to accommodate if the requested accommodations create an undue hardship on the employer.

If you are an employer who is concerned about ensuring that you have implemented proper protections under PWFA, please reach out to an employment attorney at RKW Law Group.

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