From the desk of Tracie DeFreitas, M.S., Program Leader, Director of Training, Services, and Outreach
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) requires covered employers to make reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants and employees with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless they cause an undue hardship. It also establishes clearer guidelines for pregnant workers than the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and defines actions covered employers cannot take.
The accommodation requirements and terms like "reasonable accommodation" and "undue hardship" in the PWFA will be familiar to covered employers preparing to comply with this new federal law because the PWFA is in many ways like the ADA. To help determine effective accommodations, employers and workers with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions who request accommodations can work together in an "interactive process" to come up with accommodations. A similar process used under the ADA may be applied to explore and implement effective reasonable accommodation solutions under the PWFA.
JAN can be a partner in the accommodation process by providing accommodation solutions, technical assistance, and resources to facilitate inclusion of workers who are pregnant. To help prepare employers to make PWFA accommodations, the following tips might be useful:
- Be informed: Know your responsibilities under federal and state pregnancy-related laws. Gather information and take advantage of resources that offer technical assistance, like the EEOC, Department of Labor (DOL), and JAN. Being informed about the law will better equip you to develop non-discriminatory policies and procedures. Also, update your EEO poster.
- Review and update accommodation policies and procedures: Ensure that workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions are not excluded from accommodation consideration. Update reasonable accommodation policies to include the right to reasonable accommodation for workers with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or associated medical conditions. This might include editing or creating a form that employees can use to request an accommodation under the PWFA, and/or a form used to collect medical information, when necessary.
- Train supervisors, managers, and human resources professionals on the various federal and state laws that apply in pregnancy-related situations. Teach them to recognize and respond to accommodation requests and engage in the interactive accommodation process.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has not yet issued regulations to carry out the law, but the PWFA is in effect as of June 27, 2023. For more information, see What You Should Know About the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and JAN’s Accommodation and Compliance: Pregnancy.