On June 27, 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) will go into effect. The PWFA requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, and/or related medical conditions associated with pregnancy, absent undue hardship. This article answers some of your pressing questions and offers additional resources that may help prepare you for the big day.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done, including a change or exception to individual office rules and/or procedures, which would enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of a position and/or enjoy equal employment opportunities.
What are some commonly requested accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and/or related medical conditions associated with pregnancy?
Some commonly requested accommodations include but are not limited to:
- Parking spaces located closer to a work site
- Being able to sit, drink, or elevate one’s feet
- Modification of tours of duty (such as later or flexible start times or part-time tours of duty)
- Modification of food and drink policies
- Modification of break policies (additional, longer, or more flexible breaks)
- Approval of leave to attend medical appointments and/or recover from childbirth
Is pregnancy now considered a disability?
No, being pregnant in and of itself is not considered a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a person who has a history or record of such an impairment; or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment (please note that the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended provides similar coverage to federal agencies/employees). Applying this definition, pregnancy is not a disability. The PWFA now recognizes that limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, and/or related medical conditions associated with pregnancy can substantially limit one or more major life activities entitling a covered individual to reasonable accommodations, absent undue hardship.
What is undue hardship?
Pursuant to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship under the ADA, “[u]ndue hardship refers not only to financial difficulty, but to reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business.” Therefore, any accommodation requested by an individual covered by the PWFA cannot be unduly extensive, substantial, disruptive, or fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business.
Am I covered under the PWFA if my employer denied my reasonable accommodation requests related to limitations associated with my pregnancy or childbirth?
You are only covered if the denial occurred on June 27, 2023, or later. The EEOC will begin accepting claims under the PWFA on June 27, 2023, but to be eligible the issues raised must have occurred on June 27, 2023, or after.
Where can I learn more about the PWFA?
Additional information on the PWFA can be found at:
- What You Should Know About the PWFA
- The PWFA: How We Got Here
- What agencies and federal employees should know about the PWFA
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