The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and Your Rights at Work
Pregnant Workers Now Have Stronger Workplace Protections
On June 27, 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which was passed in December 2022, took effect in the workplace. This law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers unless that accommodation would cause an undue hardship, much as they would to workers with disabilities under the ADA.
This law applies to all pregnancy-related medical conditions spanning pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum recovery. It significantly expands workplace protections for pregnant people, and is the result of decades of activism.
So what are your protections under the new law? Let’s dig in.
What Legal Gaps Does This Law Fill?
Specifically, the law applies to accommodations in the workplace.
It is already illegal to discriminate against pregnant employees in the workplace. Under Title VII, pregnant employees are protected from discriminatory treatment based on pregnancy, childbirth or any related medical conditions—and employers must treat pregnant employees the same as they would other employees in dealing with any disabilities that may arise.
So if you have a physical limitation that arose from your pregnancy, your employer must treat you the same way it has any employees with the same limitation that did not arise from pregnancy.
The ADA requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities in the workplace, but pregnancy is not considered a disability under this law. However, certain conditions that arise from pregnancy may qualify as disabilities.
There are also other laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which allows covered employees a certain amount of unpaid and job-protected leave for various medical and family reasons, including pregnancy; and the PUMP Act, which protects workers seeking to pump breastmilk in the workplace.
Both laws leave pregnant people unprotected in the workplace in various ways. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act seeks to close those gaps, by requiring employers to treat pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum recovery the same as they would a “disability” under the law, and offer accommodations under all medical situations that arise from these conditions.
Who Is Covered Under This Law?
While some employers are exempted from following these rules, most are not. Employers covered by the law include both public- and private-sector employers that have a minimum of 15 employees. The law also applies to labor organizations, federal agencies, employment agencies, and Congress.
What Is an Example of a Reasonable Accommodation for Pregnant People?
A reasonable accommodation makes things easier for a pregnant person to do their job. It can be anything, as long as it suits both employee and employer.
Some examples of possible reasonable accommodations include:
- A place to sit rather than standing on your feet all day
- More frequent bathroom breaks, water breaks, or breaks for any reason
- Permission to park closer to work so you don’t have to walk as far
- Uniforms, safety equipment and PPE that fit properly during pregnancy
- An adjusted schedule to accommodate doctors’ appointments
- A change in job duties to avoid heavy lifting or other strenuous activities
- An adjustment in your workplace or job duties to avoid contact with materials that may be harmful to pregnancy
What Other Protections Exist Under the New Law?
Under the new law, employers have to abide by the following rules:
- They cannot unilaterally reject a request for accommodations; they must discuss it with you first and can only refuse if it presents an undue hardship.
- They cannot refuse you a promotion or other opportunities based on your need for reasonable accommodations during pregnancy.
- They cannot require you to take time off if there is another accommodation that would allow you to keep working.
- Retaliation is not permitted, including for requesting an accommodation, reporting or standing up against discrimination, or playing a role in an investigation.
- Employers are not allowed to interfere with your rights under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in any way.
Have a Question About Your Rights at Work While Pregnant? Speak to an Attorney
While there are a range of protections for pregnant people in the workplace, discrimination is unfortunately still common.
If you feel your employer has unlawfully refused your accommodation request, or discriminated against you in any other way because of your pregnancy, you may have legal recourse. Contact an experienced Philadelphia employment lawyer to assess your situation.
Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free, confidential consultation today.
The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.