EEOC Issues Rulemaking to Interpret the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) to implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA).
What is the PWFA?
The PWFA requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations for workers due to limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions unless the accommodations will cause the employer undue hardship.
This law builds upon existing protections against pregnancy discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and access to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
What are reasonable accommodations under the PWFA?
The Housing Committee on Education and Labor Report on the PWFA provides examples of possible reasonable accommodations, including the ability to:
- Sit or drink water;
- Receive closer parking;
- Have flexible hours;
- Receive appropriate-sized uniforms and safety apparel;
- Receive additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest;
- Take leave or time off to recover from childbirth; and
- Be excused from strenuous activities and/or activities that involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will release regulations based on the PWFA by June 2025, as required by the Act.
Who does the PWFA protect?
The PWFA protects employees and applicants of covered employers (private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees) who have known limitations due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
What is the focus of the NPRM?
The NPRM explains how the EEOC proposes to interpret the PWFA and certain terms in the statute, such as “temporary,” “essential functions,” and “communicated to the employer.”
For example, the EEOC is interested in determining if a 40-week period is sufficient time for an employee to be covered under the act.
The NPRM also provides numerous examples of possible reasonable accommodations and seeks input on whether there should be more examples for additional situations.
In addition, the EEOC is seeking information and comment on particular issues, including existing data quantifying the proportion of pregnant workers who need workplace accommodations and the average cost of pregnancy-related accommodations.
The EEOC is accepting public comment regarding this notice of proposed rulemaking through Oct. 10 at www.regulations.gov.
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