The Lead

Federal agency asks for public input on proposal to implement Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

By: - August 7, 2023 3:48 pm

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 01: Advocates, legislators, and pregnant workers rally on Capitol Hill in support of The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act on December 01, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for A Better Balance)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) publicly shared a proposed regulation on the federal register Monday that it says will allow the agency to enforce a recently enacted law expanding workplace protections to pregnant workers. 

The proposed regulation, approved by a majority vote of the Commission on Aug. 1, explains how the EEOC proposes to interpret the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), a federal law providing pregnant workers with the right to reasonable accommodations in the workplace that took effect in late June. 

The PWFA requires public and private sector employers with 15 or more employees to grant pregnant workers “reasonable accommodation” for limitations related to their pregnancy, such as permission to sit or stand while performing their job duties and altered break or shift schedules, unless it would pose an undue hardship for the employer.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: What’s in it, what does it mean for Pennsylvanians?

The PWFA, which was sponsored in Congress by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., builds upon existing protections against pregnancy discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and language regarding access to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Casey visits Harrisburg, celebrates the newly enacted Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows called the PWFA a “step forward for workers, families and the economy.”

This important new civil rights law promotes the economic security and health of pregnant and postpartum workers by providing them with access to support on the job to keep working, which helps employers retain critical talent,” Burrows said in a statement on Monday. “The EEOC’s bipartisan proposed regulation furthers the agency’s leadership role in fulfilling the promise of the PWFA’s protections.” 

The proposed regulation defines specific terms in the statute, such as “temporary,” “essential functions,” and “communicated to the employer” and provides examples of possible reasonable accommodations. It also seeks input on whether there should be more examples and for what additional different situations, according to EEOC officials.  

“The regulation provides concrete, real-world examples that help workers understand their rights and help employers comply with the new law and reap the benefit of retaining skilled employees,” EEOC Vice Chair Jocelyn Samuels said. 

The proposed rule can be viewed on the federal register and will be published for public comment beginning on Aug. 11. It will remain open for comment for 60 days. 

“We encourage the public to provide meaningful feedback about how the proposal would impact workplaces and ways to assist employers and workers in understanding the law,” Burrows said.

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