EEOC Issues Final Rule for Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued its final regulation to carry out the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), previously enacted in 2023. 

The PWFA requires covered employers to make reasonable accommodations related to an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, or pregnancy-related medical conditions. Employers are not required to make accommodations if doing so would cause undue hardship.

The Final Rule on the PWFA intends to “fill the gaps” of federal protection for employees. The Final Rule follows the definition of “covered entity” from Title VII of the Civil Human Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), while also incorporating language from the Government Employees Rights Act of 1991 (GERA). The Final Rule covers both private companies with 15 or more employees, regardless of the industry, as well as federal employees. The Final Rule does not apply to employees or employers under the Congressional Authority Act (CAA). 

The Final Rule uses the definition of “reasonable accommodation” from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to demonstrate potential accommodation examples. Such examples include additional or longer breaks, alternative work schedules, telework options, light work duty, and leave time to recover from pregnancy-related conditions.

The Final Rule provides insight on what qualifies under the “undue hardship” exception. Some factors include the employee’s inability to perform essential job functions, the nature and frequency of the essential functions, and whether the employer has provided accommodations to similarly situated employees in the past. The definition of “essential function” is also borrowed from the ADA. 

An employer is not required to seek supporting documentation to justify a request for reasonable accommodation. The Final Rule provides three specific requirements for any required documents an employer may request. First, the documents should confirm a physical or mental condition.  Secondly, they should confirm such a condition is related back to pregnancy in some capacity. Third, they must provide a reasonable description of any related work limitations. 

While the PWFA prohibits employers from failing to provide reasonable accommodations to applicable workers absent undue hardship, the Final Rule notes additional considerations, such as preventing unnecessary delay in making an accommodation or forcing the employee to accept the accommodation. 

The final regulation goes into effect on June 18, 2024, which is 60 days from April 19, 2024, per the Final Rule.

To learn more about pregnancy discrimination or how the EEOC’s regulation on the PWFA affects your employment, contact the attorneys at Potomac Legal Group.

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