Complying with the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) became effective on June 27, 2023. Under the PWFA, covered employers must provide qualified employees with reasonable accommodations for their known limitations associated with pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless the accommodation would cause the employer undue hardship. The PWFA amended the Americans with Disabilities Act and only applies to accommodations; existing laws already make it illegal to discriminate based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

The PWFA does not replace federal, state, or local laws that are more protective of workers impacted by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

In general, a qualified employee under the PFWA is an employee or applicant who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position. The PFWA applies to “covered employers,” which includes private- and public-sector employers with at least 15 employees, federal and employment agencies, and labor organizations. Examples of violations of the PWFA include the following:

  • Requiring an employee to accept an accommodation without discussing it with them
  • Denying a job or other employment opportunity to a qualified employee or applicant based on the individual’s need for a reasonable accommodation
  • Requiring an employee to take leave from their job if a reasonable accommodation would allow them to keep working
  • Retaliating against an employee for participating in a PWFA investigation or other proceeding or for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination under the PFWA
  • Interfering with an individual’s rights under the PWFA

Employers should review their accommodation policies to ensure they meet the law’s requirements. Two key terms to know include “reasonable accommodation,” which is an adjustment or modification to a job, work environment or how things are typically done at work; and “undue hardship,” which refers to an accommodation that creates a significant difficulty or expense for an employer. Examples of reasonable accommodations include allowing the worker the opportunity to:

  • Sit, hydrate, park closer, take breaks, work flexible hours and/or take leave or time off to recover from childbirth
  • Receive uniforms and safety apparel that is appropriately sized
  • Be excused from strenuous activities and/or exposure to conditions or chemicals that are not safe for pregnancy

An employer’s failure to comply with the requirements of the PWFA can result in significant fines and lawsuits, as well as a work environment that does not meet the needs of its employees.

To learn more about the PWFA and additional risk management and insurance guidance, contact an RMC Group Risk Manager today at 239-298-8210.

© 2023 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.