It would be beneficial for employers to familiarize themselves with their responsibilities under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) regarding providing reasonable accommodations for known limitations associated with pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. A Forbes article has emphasized the enhanced safety and well-being of expectant employees in the workplace.
Workplaces involving strenuous physical labor can potentially pose risks to the health and safety of pregnant employees. As various research has highlighted, such conditions may escalate the likelihood of complications including miscarriage, preterm birth, low birth weight, urinary tract infections, and even fainting.
A few specific work conditions can intensify these hazards. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in their research found that tasks such as heavy lifting, night shifts, excessive hours, and long durations of sitting or standing can all contribute to this elevated risk.
What Are Reasonable Accommodations?
The ability to sit or drink water
Parking areas closer to the workplace
Appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel
Additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest
Leave or time off to recover from childbirth
Reassignment from activities that are strenuous or involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy.
These are just a few of the examples but there are many more.
The PWFA's Unique Accommodation Provisions Compared to the ADA
The accommodation provisions of the PWFA are modeled after those of the ADA. However, it's important to note that the PWFA allows for the temporary elimination of an essential job function, which differs from the ADA regulations.
Who’s Subject To The New Law?
The PWFA applies to employers with 15 or more employees unless the accommodation would cause the employer an undue hardship.
Other Laws Protecting Pregnant Workers
It is crucial to note that almost every state and city enacts laws that mandate employers to provide suitable accommodations for their pregnant employees. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) doesn't supplant these existing laws, instead, it supplements them, offering an extra degree of protection.
On the federal level, prior legislation has also been enacted to guard the rights of pregnant employees. These include the seventh title of the Civil Rights Act, the Act to Prevent Discrimination due to Pregnancy, and the Act that Ensures Immediate Maternal Provisions for Nursing Mothers (PUMP Act).
The EEOC has shared a beneficial webinar that provides a comprehensive explanation of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA).