New EEOC Rule on Pregnant Workers Fairness Act



Practice Areas

Caleb J. Holloway and Leighton E. Whitehead
Robinson Bradshaw Publication
May 20, 2024

On April 15, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued its final rule implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The PWFA requires employers to provide pregnant workers or workers who have known limitations arising out of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions with “reasonable accommodations” unless doing so would impose an “undue hardship” on the employer's business. A reasonable accommodation generally means a change in the work environment or how things are usually done in order to remove work-related barriers, and an undue hardship is typically defined as something causing significant difficulty or expense. The regulation takes effect on June 18, 2024.

Before exploring the nuances and application of this rule, it is imperative to clarify the scope and breadth of the PWFA. First, it only applies to accommodations; it does not govern firing or otherwise discriminating against employees on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Second, the PWFA applies to all private employers and public sector employers that have 15 or more employees. Last, the PWFA does not replace any other federal laws that still could apply to workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Therefore, employers must still consider and comply with Title VII, the ADA, FMLA and PUMP.[1]

PWFA Highlights

The PWFA borrows terminology from the ADA, and much of it can be applied in a similar way. Key differences between the PWFA and the ADA include:

The PWFA is similar to the ADA in the following respects:

Many Conditions Covered by the PWFA

The PWFA has been controversial to some because it includes abortion as a “related medical condition.” But employers should be aware that the PWFA covers far more than abortion and pregnancy. The EEOC offers the following non-exhaustive list for clarification, and employers should consider the PWFA when one of their employees has any of the following conditions and requests an accommodation:

Add to this EEOC list: nausea, vomiting, carpal tunnel syndrome, frequent urination, fatigue, lactation, etc.[2]

Practical Tips for Employers

Employers should take steps now to ensure they are in compliance when the PWFA’s rules go into effect. Those steps include:

For assistance evaluating and considering changes to your accommodations policies and practices in light of the EEOC’s PWFA rule, or with training HR and supervisors, contact a member of Robinson Bradshaw’s Employment & Labor Practice Group.

[1] The Americans with Disabilities Act (as amended), the Family and Medical Leave Act (as amended), and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act.

[2] Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common symptom of pregnancy, brought on by swelling. Note also that “morning sickness” can happen at any time of day or night.

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