Employers have an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations in certain situations. This has long been applied to employees with disabilities. When an employer can easily make modifications that allow for continued employment of someone with a disability, they generally have an obligation to do so.
Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) began to enforce the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). This law expands existing legal protections and insists that reasonable accommodations need to be made for workers who have become pregnant, who have just given birth or who have related medical conditions. Pregnancy should not bar anyone from employment, and act this gives workers a better chance to successfully look for work and to retain their jobs when dealing with pregnancy-related circumstances.
What is required under the PWFA?
The Act requires reasonable accommodations unless they create an undue hardship for a business. This is already the standard used under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and it now explicitly applies to pregnancy as well. There may be some situations in which employers cannot make these accommodations – perhaps because they are impossible, because they are too expensive or because they would inhibit the ability of the employee to actually do their job. But in many cases, employers are now required to do what they can when accommodating applicants and workers affected by pregnancy is a task that is reasonable and fair.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, even with this Act on the books. As a result, the EEOC has begun accepting discrimination complaints related to noncompliance with this Act. Enforcement applies to incidents that took place on June 27, 2023, or on any subsequent date.
The EEOC is also providing educational resources for employees focused around helping them understand their rights. Some employees may not know that their rights are being violated, or they may not understand what legal protections they have at certain times – such as if they become pregnant. Those who feel that their rights may have been violated can seek legal guidance at any time to receive personalized feedback.