Proposed Regulations for Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Issued

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published proposed rules to implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) on August 11, 2023. The EEOC will accept public comments on the rules through October 10, 2023, and it is specifically seeking comments on other possible accommodations and the costs of accommodations.

The PWFA, which went into effect on June 27, 2023, expands protections for pregnant and postpartum workers. More specifically, the PWFA requires covered employers to provide certain reasonable accommodations to women experiencing limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions unless it would cause an undue hardship on the employer.

Congress enacted the PWFA to cure gaps in the existing laws covering these workers. For instance, in the past, pregnant workers typically had to identify similarly situated workers who received accommodations to qualify for a pregnancy-related accommodation. However, there was not always a worker in the same situation or with the same needs as the pregnant worker.

The PWFA makes it easier for these workers to obtain commonsense workplace accommodations to meet their needs. The proposed regulations list examples of potential reasonable accommodations, such as:

  • Reassignment of job duties;
  • Modified or reduced work schedules;
  • More frequent or longer breaks;
  • Unpaid leave;
  • Assignment to light duty; and
  • Telecommuting or working from home.

The proposed regulations also provide definitions of important terms used in the statute, such as “essential functions,” to provide clarity to both employees and employers.

Since the PWFA is now in effect, employers should update their policies on accommodations to include common limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. Employer policies should include information for employees about how the policies work and how to request reasonable accommodations if needed. Employer policies should include that information if state and local laws provide additional protections.

Employers also should be cautious about denying reasonable accommodations requested by pregnant and postpartum women based on undue hardship. Since the requested accommodations are likely to be of short duration, proving undue hardship may be challenging. As a result, consulting with legal counsel before denying a reasonable accommodation request under these circumstances is wise.

HBL has experience in all areas of benefits and employment law, offering a comprehensive solution to all your business benefits and HR/employment needs. We help ensure you are in compliance with the complex requirements of ERISA and the IRS code, as well as those laws that impact you and your employees. Together, we reduce your exposure to potential legal or financial penalties. Learn more by calling 470-571-1007.

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