New Law Expands Federal Protections Related to Pregnancy

August 2023

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with a disability. The ADA does not, however, consider pregnancy to be a disability, so federal law has not required employers to provide accommodations to employees who are unable to work, or limited in their ability to work, due to pregnancy. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)—which went into effect on June 27, 2023 and applies to violations occurring on or after that date—was enacted to fill this gap in the ADA.

The PWFA requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees who have communicated that they have a physical or mental condition related to pregnancy, childbirth, or associated medical conditions, unless the accommodation would impose undue hardship on the company. The PWFA covers all pregnancy-related known limitations, including those not considered a disability under the ADA.

As is true under the ADA, the PWFA requires covered employers to engage in a good faith, interactive process to identify potential accommodations for the employee. Under the PWFA, employers cannot require an employee to take a leave of absence if another accommodation can be made. Additionally, the PWFA prohibits employers from denying employment opportunities based on the need to make accommodations, and prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions against employees who requesting an accommodation.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is developing regulations to enforce the PFWA and will issue a proposed draft of the regulations for public comment.

While the duties imposed by the PWFA may be new to federal law, California law already requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to pregnant employees and employees affected by pregnancy, and similarly prohibits discrimination and harassment of employees who are pregnant or affected by pregnancy. To the extent that employers have employees outside California, however, the PWFA creates new obligations and employers should update their policies and practices accordingly.

Pregnancy and reasonable accommodation can present challenging issues for employers. If you have questions about these issues, or any other issues relating to employment law, please contact one of our attorneys:

Shareholders Associates
Eric C. Bellafronto Richard M. Noack Shirley Jackson
Ernest M. Malaspina Daniel F. Pyne III Michael Manoukian
Cory Mickels
Annie Nguyen

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