As of June 27th, 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) took effect. This new federal law helps ensure that working women can request reasonable accommodations from their employers during pregnancy. The PWFA helps address the medical limitations women often experience during pregnancy including rules limiting how long they can stand or how much they can lift.
This new law helps expand on existing federal protections. What other laws currently protect pregnant workers?
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of numerous laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The ADA specifically protects those with disabling medical conditions from discrimination based on their disability. Much like the FWFA, the ADA requires reasonable accommodations if employers can provide support that would help workers maintain or obtain a job. Although the ADA does not specifically treat pregnancy as a disabling medical condition, many health challenges that develop during pregnancy may be eligible for coverage under the ADA.
Title VII is a federal statute that protects women from pregnancy discrimination, as well as discrimination related to childbirth or medical conditions related to pregnancy. Title VII specifically prohibits employers from treating women differently during pregnancy or after childbirth because of their medical conditions.
The Family and Medical Leave Act
Not all employers offer maternity leave or enough paid leave for workers to recover from childbirth or medical complications during pregnancy. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) extends protection to pregnant women who require time off due to complications and women who have recently given birth. The FMLA allows a woman to request up to 12 weeks of leave if she qualifies. That leave can occur during a pregnancy with medical challenges or after the birth of her child.
The PUMP Act
The Providing Urgent Maternal Protection for Nursing Mothers (PUMP) Act is the final law at the federal level that creates workplace protections specifically for women recovering from pregnancy. Women who require time for nursing or pumping breast milk after the birth of a child have the right to certain on-the-job accommodations under the PUMP Act.
The more that pregnant women understand their rights, the easier it may be to make use of them during pregnancy or after the birth of a child. Holding employers accountable for mistreating or discriminating against a woman due to pregnancy or childbirth can help someone continue to support their family and preserve their career despite recently giving birth.