The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), passed as part of the 2023 federal spending package, will require employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for job applicants and employees with limitations related to pregnancy or childbirth. As part of the new spending package, Congress also included the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (the PUMP Act) to expand workplace lactation accommodations.

Prior to the PWFA, employers were required only to provide pregnant workers with reasonable accommodations for workers suffering from a disability related to pregnancy that would render them a qualified individual with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The PWFA is modeled on the ADA and aligns with several existing state laws passed to combat discrimination against pregnant workers. The procedure and interactive process that employers are familiar with for ADA accommodations will apply to PFWA accommodations.

Requests for pregnancy accommodations are often temporary and less burdensome for employers. Examples of common reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers include allowing bathroom extra breaks, assigning lighter duty, and allowing a pregnant worker to drink water at her workstation. As with the ADA, accommodations that eliminate the essential function of a job and accommodations that amount to indefinite leave are unlikely to be “unreasonable.”

In the wake of the PWFA, employers will need to amend their existing reasonable accommodation policies to clarify that they apply to any employees who are pregnant, have pregnancy-related conditions, or have recently given birth. Employers must also be wary that the law protects job applicants – for example, an employer is prohibited from rejecting an applicant who discloses she will need to limit standing during the first month of her employment, if the employer makes no attempt to identify a reasonable accommodation.

Accommodations must also be made for the PUMP Act – a place for lactation that is private and clean.

Have questions about your company’s policies and compliance with the PWFA? Don’t worry – we are here to help!

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