The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) has come into effect from 27 June in the United States (US).
Under the terms of the PWFA employers are obliged to provide reasonable accommodations for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.
The act applies to US private and public sector employers as well as Congress, Federal agencies, employment agencies and labor organisations with 15 or more employees, unless the accommodation would cause the employer an undue hardship on its operations, such as significant difficulty or expense.
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The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will now start accepting PWFA charges, which must be based on events that occurred on or after 27 June 2023.
Suggested reasonable accommodations by the EEOC include assigning light duties, allowing a pregnant worker to drink water at their workstations and the ability to sit at a workstation, closer parking to the workplace, flexible hours, appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel, additional break time to use the bathroom, eat and rest, leave to recover from childbirth, and reassignment from activities that are strenuous or involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy.
The PWFA does not replace federal, state or local laws that are more protective of workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.
The House Committee on Education and Labor Report on the PWFA stated: “Covered employers cannot require an employee to accept an accommodation without a discussion about the accommodation between the worker and the employer, or deny a job or other employment opportunities to a qualified employee or applicant based on the person’s need for a reasonable accommodation.
“They also cannot require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided that would let the employee keep working, or retaliate against an individual for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination under the PWFA or participating in a proceeding or interfere with any individual’s rights.”