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  • Writer's pictureArizona Contractor & Community

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: What employers should know

A new federal law requires many employers to make reasonable accommodations to meet the needs of pregnant employees.



If your company has 15 or more employees, it is a "covered employer" under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which went into effect June 27, and is subject to the PWFA's requirements.


If you are a covered employer or are approaching the 15-employee threshold, you should familiarize yourself with the PWFA and adjust your human resource policies as needed to ensure compliance and to provide a supportive work environment for pregnant workers.


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW


Purpose of the Act. The PWFA aims to prevent unfair treatment of pregnant workers and to ensure that their needs are met. It prohibits discrimination against employees based on known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.


Reasonable Accommodations. The PWFA requires covered employers to provide to pregnant employees “reasonable accommodations,” which the EEOC broadly describes as “changes to the work environment or the way things are usually done at work.” Example include:


  • allowing more frequent breaks;

  • modifying work schedules;

  • providing seating;

  • allowing temporary transfers to less physically demanding positions;

  • modifying workplace policies regarding food or drink consumption; and

  • providing or modifying necessary equipment.


Your company may be excused from providing an accommodation if doing so would impose an “undue hardship” – i.e., a significant difficulty or expense – but you bear the burden of proving the hardship.


Employer Response. When an employee requests a pregnancy-related accommodation, you as the employer must engage in an interactive process. This involves a dialogue between you and the employee to determine the appropriate accommodation that meets the employee’s needs while considering your operational requirements. You are strongly advised to maintain open communication with pregnant workers and work collaboratively toward feasible solutions.


Notice and Documentation. Be aware that, in requesting reasonable accommodations, employees are not required to provide advanced notice of their pregnancy. Additionally, you cannot require employees to obtain a doctor’s note or medical certification for every accommodation. However, in some cases, documentation may be required if the need for accommodation is not obvious or if you have concerns about the requested accommodation.


Compliance. To comply with the PWFA, you should review your human resource policies and make any necessary adjustments to ensure compliance with the Act’s requirements. That may include consulting an employment attorney or HR professional to ensure your understanding of the law and its implications for your specific business.

Retaliation. The PWFA protects pregnant workers from employer retaliation for requesting or using reasonable accommodations. You must refrain from penalizing or treating employees adversely due to their pregnancy or the exercise of their rights under the Act. Violations of these protections can result in legal consequences and damage to your reputation.


WHAT YOU SHOULD DO


Covered employers should be proactive in understanding and complying with the PWFA in order to protect the workplace rights of pregnant employees and avoid legal and regulatory consequences.


By staying informed, seeking appropriate guidance, engaging in an interactive process, and providing reasonable accommodations, you can avoid discrimination, promote the well-being of pregnant workers, and preserve a positive work environment that benefits you and all of your employees.




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