What Workers Should Know About The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

What Workers Should Know About The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Congress passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) December 27, 2022, and President Biden signed the bill into law on December 29, 2022. The new law requires covered employers, generally those with 15 or more employees, to provide reasonable accommodations for employees and job applicants with temporary physical or mental limitations due to pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions. The PWFA goes into effect on June 27, 2023.

The PWFA, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations unless doing so imposes an undue hardship. The PWFA incorporates the ADA concept of the interactive process, a good-faith exchange between the company and worker to try to identify a reasonable accommodation. Under the new law, employers will be prohibited from requiring an employee or applicant to accept an accommodation other than one arrived at through the interactive process. An employer may not require an employee to take a paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided. Retaliation against an employee or applicant for requesting a reasonable accommodation is also prohibited.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC) the federal agency charged with enforcement of this new law, has published a summary for workers that explains the law and who it protects. See What You Should Know About Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Here are some highlights from the EEOC statement explaining this new law:

What is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a new law that requires covered employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to a worker’s known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation will cause the employer an “undue hardship.”

The PWFA applies only to accommodations, while other laws make it illegal to fire or otherwise discriminate against workers on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

The PWFA does not replace federal, state, or local laws that are more protective of workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. More than 30 states and cities have laws that provide accommodations for pregnant workers.

Is the EEOC accepting charges under the PWFA?

The EEOC will start accepting charges under the PWFA on June 27, 2023. For the PWFA to apply, the situation complained about in the charge must have happened on June 27, 2023, or later. A pregnant worker who needs an accommodation before June 27th may, however, have a right to receive an accommodation under another federal or state law.

Who does the PWFA protect?

The PWFA protects employees and applicants of “covered employers” who have known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

”Covered employers” include private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees, Congress, Federal agencies, employment agencies, and labor organizations.

What are some examples of reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers?

“Reasonable accommodations” are changes to the work environment or the way things are usually done at work.

Examples of possible reasonable accommodations including the ability to sit or drink water; receive closer parking; have flexible hours; receive appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel; receive additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest; take leave or time off to recover from childbirth; and be excused from strenuous activities and/or activities that involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations unless they would cause an “undue hardship” on the employer’s operations. An “undue hardship” is significant difficulty or expense for the employer.

What else does the PWFA prohibit?

Covered employers cannot:

  • Require an employee to accept an accommodation without a discussion about the accommodation between the worker and the employer;
  • Deny a job or other employment opportunities to a qualified employee or applicant based on the person's need for a reasonable accommodation;
  • Require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided that would let the employee keep working;
  • Retaliate against an individual for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination under the PWFA or participating in a PWFA proceeding (such as an investigation); or
  • Interfere with any individual’s rights under the PWFA.

For more information on the PWFA see: