The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued new proposed regulations to implement protections put into place by the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which was signed into law earlier this year. The regulations, if adopted, would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, as well as those who recently gave birth. It also protects those suffering from medical conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth, and gives employees the right to sue if reasonable accommodations are not provided.
What is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a law that protects workers who are either pregnant, or who recently gave birth, as well as those suffering with pregnancy-related medical issues. It requires employers to prove reasonable accommodations (similar to the Americans With Disabilities Act) to qualifying workers to help them perform their job duties. In this way, workers can continue working longer before needing to take maternity leave, and will have additional help dealing with medical issues related to pregnancy.
What Are the Intended Effects of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?
The PWFA is meant to help pregnant workers who are able to continue performing their job duties, but struggle to do so without additional help. This is meant to counteract a tendency by some employers to put pregnant workers on leave as early as possible, depriving them of income and sick leave. It is also meant to discourage employers from using their pregnancy as a way to effectively fire them by giving their job to someone else while they are on leave.
What Are Some Reasonable Accommodations Pregnant Workers Can Ask For?
There are many possible reasonable accommodations the PWFA may provide, including but not limited to:
- Additional time to rest or take breaks for water and food
- Increased bathroom breaks
- Preferred parking to reduce the amount of distance walked
- More flexible working hours
- Adjusted safety gear or uniforms to accommodate their new size
- Assistance with manual labor, such as heavy lifting
- Transfer to a less physically demanding position
What Should You Do if You Are Pregnant or Have Just Given Birth?
If you are a worker who is either pregnant or has recently given birth, you may be able to seek reasonable accommodations under the PWFA. You may also be able to sue your employer if they fail to provide these accommodations. However, to know what may be available to you, you should speak to a lawyer with experience handling pregnancy discrimination claims, who can assist you with your case.
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