Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Now Effective

On June 27, 2023, the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”) went into effect.  The law requires employers with 15 or more workers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to a worker’s known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation will cause the employer an “undue hardship.”

The PWFA does not replace federal, state, or local laws that are more protective of workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. These laws have been passed in approximately 30 jurisdictions.

Examples of reasonable accommodations cited by the Congressional Report on the law include the ability to sit or drink water; receive closer parking; have flexible hours; receive appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel; receive additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest; take leave or time off to recover from childbirth; and be excused from strenuous activities and/or activities that involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy. The EEOC’s infographic also suggests changing a work schedule such as having short hours, part-time work, or a later start time, changing food or drink policies to allow a worker to have a water bottle or food while working.

Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations unless they would cause an “undue hardship” on the employer’s operations. An “undue hardship” is defined as a significant difficulty or expense for the employer. The law also protects employees from retaliation for requesting a reasonable accommodation.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that it would start accepting charges under the PWFA on June 27, 2023 for conduct taking place on or after June 27, 2023.

Restaurant employers should train managers about the PWFA so they are prepared to handle reasonable accommodation requests.