Regulations Are in the Works to Implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a brand-new civil rights employment law that was signed into law by President Biden on December 29, 2022, and went into effect on June 27, 2023. While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – the agency charged with enforcing the law – has already begun accepting charges (complaints) from workers regarding violations of the law, the EEOC still must issue regulations implementing the law. That process is currently underway.
Under the terms of the PWFA, the EEOC has until the end of the year, specifically December 29, 2023, to issue regulations to implement the new law. In that spirit, the EEOC on August 7 issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to implement the PWFA. The NPRM was published for public comment in the Federal Register on August 11, and interested members of the public have 60 days from that date to comment on the NPRM.
New Law Requires Reasonable Accommodation of Pregnancy
Many laws already in existence protect the rights of women in the workplace who are or may become pregnant. These laws include the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition to protecting women from discrimination in the workplace based on pregnancy, these laws also require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers based on pregnancy-related conditions. However, courts hearing pregnancy cases brought under the ADA have typically required pregnant workers to demonstrate a qualifying disability under the ADA or show that they were being treated differently than non-pregnant workers requesting reasonable accommodations in order to avail themselves of protections under the law.
Under the new PWFA, pregnancy itself is covered, along with childbirth and related medical conditions. The law allows pregnant workers to request reasonable accommodation without having to prove that they suffer from a disability related to their pregnancy or that they received disparate treatment compared to non-pregnant workers who requested accommodation for other reasons. Employers are required to grant a requested reasonable accommodation unless they can show that doing so would create an undue hardship on company operations.
The PWFA also prohibits retaliation against employees for requesting an accommodation or otherwise discriminating against them on that basis. Employers are also prohibited under the new law from demanding that the employee take leave instead of granting a reasonable accommodation.
The proposed regulations for the PWFA as set out in the NPRM offer an expansive reading of the law, maximizing the law’s ability to protect pregnant workers. For example, the regulations make it clear that workers with uncomplicated (normal and healthy) pregnancies are covered by the law and entitled to request accommodation for their pregnancy and childbirth, without having to prove any complications or disability associated with the pregnancy.
Terms in the law like “pregnancy,” “childbirth,” and “related medical conditions” are given broad interpretations in the proposed rules. For example, the proposed regulations state that pregnancy and childbirth “include, but are not limited to, current pregnancy; past pregnancy; potential or intended pregnancy; labor; and childbirth.” The new rules would also include a long but non-exhaustive list of medical conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth.
The regulations would also provide guidance on what sorts of factors employers (and the courts) should consider when deciding whether or not an employee’s requested accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the employer, allowing the employer to decline to grant the accommodation.
The clock is ticking for anyone who wants to submit their comments on the proposed rules. After the 60-day comment period closes, the EEOC will finalize the regulations based on the input it has received.
Legal Help for Employees in Central Florida
If you are an employee in Marion or Citrus County with questions regarding discrimination in the workplace based on pregnancy or any other protected characteristics, contact the Ocala employment lawyers at James P. Tarquin, P.A. for a free consultation to discuss your concerns and take action to protect your rights.