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Preparing For The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: The Final Rule Takes Effect June 18

Updated: May 8

On April 15, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a final rule on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which took effect in June of last year. The PWFA requires covered employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to qualified applicants and employees for known limitations arising from, affected by, or related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless it causes an undue hardship. The final rule will take effect June 18 (barring any delays).


While other laws address discrimination, the PWFA specifically focuses on reasonable accommodations. It applies to the qualified applicants and employees of covered private and public sector employers (including government, unions, and employment agencies) with 15 or more employees. Where state or local laws are more generous, they take precedence. (Click here for information on New York State’s Pregnancy Rights in the Workplace.) 


If your organization is subject to the PWFA, you have a few weeks to prepare for the June 18th effective date. A good place to start is by reviewing the final rule and consulting with legal counsel about your next steps. 


Pay attention to expanded definitions and exhaustive lists of examples in the final rule. For example, the rule confirms that medical conditions include, but are not limited to termination of pregnancy by miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion; lactation and related conditions; menstruation; postpartum depression; anxiety or psychosis; preeclampsia; preterm labor; ectopic pregnancy; gestational diabetes; endometriosis; hormone level changes; other conditions exasperated by the pregnancy or childbirth; and more.


Be aware that unlike the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the PWFA requires reasonable accommodations be made even if a qualified applicant or employee cannot perform all of a job’s essential functions for a temporary period, but can perform them in the near future, without undue hardship for the employer. In the near future is defined as 40 weeks from when the essential function is suspended for a current pregnancy; for all other situations, it will be determined on a case-by-case basis but cannot go on indefinitely.


Example accommodations include job restructuring, schedule changes, frequent breaks, acquiring/modifying equipment, uniforms, devices, or the work environment; light duty; sitting, standing or lifting accommodations; remote or telework; temporarily suspending an essential function; and providing a reserved parking space.

Refer to the final rule about details on how an applicant or employee can make the situation known; when documentation can be requested; and more. 


Key implementation considerations include:


  • How will this impact your application, interviewing, and hiring processes and procedures? Does anything need to change?

  • How will you train and communicate changes to HR staff, hiring managers, and front-line managers or supervisors?

  • Do you have a related policy that needs to be updated?

  • Will you put a process in place to review reasonable accommodation requests? Will you need to have legal counsel on call when making a determination or considering a denial?  


For additional information and answers to questions, see the EEOC’s “What You Should Know About the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act” article. 

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