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The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) goes into effect on June 27, 2023, and will provide additional protection for pregnant job applicants and employees. If your business has fifteen (15) or more employees, the PWFA will require you to provide reasonable accommodations for job applicants and employees for “known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions,” unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship.
The PWFA requires a reasonable accommodation regardless of whether the pregnant applicant or employee has a “disability” within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Covered employers must engage in an interactive process with the applicant or employee to arrive at a reasonable accommodation that works for both parties. Reasonable accommodations may include available seating, access to water, closer parking, appropriately-sized uniforms and/or safety apparel, exemption from strenuous activities, and additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest.
As noted above, an employer is not required to provide a reasonable accommodation if it would impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the business. The ADA defines an undue hardship as “an action requiring significant difficulty or expense” for the employer when factors such as the cost and nature of the accommodation, the financial resources of the employer, and the impact of the accommodation on the employer’s business operations are considered.
The PWFA also prohibits an employer from: (i) denying an otherwise qualified applicant or employee a job or other employment opportunity based on the applicant or employee’s need for a reasonable accommodation related to the known limitations of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition; (ii) forcing the employee to take leave if a reasonable accommodation exists that would allow the employee to continue working; (iii) requiring the employee to accept an accommodation other than a reasonable accommodation arrived at through the parties’ interactive process; and (iv) retaliating against the applicant or employee for requesting a reasonable accommodation related to the known limitations of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. An employer who violates the PWFA may be required to reinstate the employee and could face liability for back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and the employee’s attorneys’ fees and costs.
Notably, the PWFA applies only to reasonable accommodations in the workplace for pregnant applicants and employees. It does not affect existing laws that already make it illegal to discriminate against applicants and employees on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
When the PWFA goes into effect on June 27, 2023, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will begin accepting charges of discrimination based on alleged failures to comply with the PWFA. We expect the EEOC to issue proposed regulations and guidance on the PWFA over the next few months. In the meantime, our firm will continue to monitor this matter.
The PWFA can be found here: https://www.congress.gov/117/bills/hr2617/BILLS-117hr2617enr.pdf#page=1626.
Chamberlain Hrdlicka’s Labor & Employment Group is available to answer any questions and assist with revising your policies to comply with the PWFA. Feel free to forward this Labor & Employment Alert to anyone who might be interested. If you have questions, please send an e-mail to email@example.com.
AmyJo "AJ" Foreman is an associate in the litigation section. Her practice focuses primarily on commercial litigation, labor & employment, and appellate matters.
AJ graduated from the University of Houston Law Center where she was ...
- Senior Associate
Brittney Williams is a senior litigation associate whose practice primarily focuses on complex labor and employment, and commercial litigation. She provides a full range of labor and employment law services to her clients ...
Larry Carbo maintains a commercial litigation practice focusing on representation of companies in employment matters including misappropriation of trade secrets, enforcement and defense of non-competition agreements and ...
Diana Gomez is a talented trial attorney with extensive experience in civil lawsuits in state and federal courts. She focuses on complex labor and employment disputes by providing a full range of employment law services to her ...
Elizabeth "Liz" Feeney is an associate in the Commercial Litigation section, focusing primarily on labor and employment matters. She graduated from the SMU Dedman School of Law and began her career at a mid-sized firm in Fort Worth ...
Julie is an experienced litigation attorney in Chamberlain’s Houston office. She has substantial experience defending employers nationwide in wage and hour class and collective action lawsuits, including matters involving ...
Mr. Scott maintains a general civil litigation practice in state and federal courts, with particular emphasis on employment law, governmental defense, and civil rights.
His practice includes the defense of employers and ...
- Senior Counsel
Leslie Tan is an experienced attorney specializing in labor and employment matters and complex civil litigation. Ms. Tan enjoys guiding employers through challenging situations, from counseling on daily operations to ...