Effective June 27, 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will require all covered employers – including school districts – to provide reasonable accommodations for workers and applicants limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
What is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a recent law that requires covered employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to its employees’ known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions, if such accommodation does not cause the employer “undue hardship.” Undue hardship refers to a significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
Employers should know that the PWFA applies only to accommodations. There are existing laws, such as the PUMP Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), governing the illegality of termination or discrimination due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
The PWFA sets the minimum standard for accommodating the needs of pregnant or post-pregnancy workers. Therefore, this new legislation does not replace any federal, state or local laws that impose stricter standards for accommodating workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
Who is Protected under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?
The PWFA aims to protect workers and job applicants of “covered employers” who have known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Pursuant to the PWFA, “covered employers” include employers in both the public and private sector with at least fifteen (15) employees, as well as Congress, Federal Agencies, Employment Agencies, and Labor Organizations.
What are Reasonable Accommodations?
The PWFA defines “reasonable accommodations” as changes to the work environment or the routine way tasks are completed in the workplace. According to the House Committee on Education and Labor report on the PWFA, reasonable accommodations include: the ability to sit, receive closer parking, receive additional break times, be excused from strenuous activities that are not safe during pregnancy, as well as access to appropriate-fitting uniforms and safety apparel.
Employers covered by the PWFA must understand that providing reasonable accommodations for employees facing limitations due to pregnancy, childbirth or medical conditions is not an option. Starting June 27, 2023, these accommodations must be made available to eligible employees.
What does the PWFA Prohibit?
Employers covered by the PWFA must be considerate in their approval and implementation of reasonable accommodations. Pursuant to the PWFA, an employer cannot:
1. Require an employee to accept an accommodation without a discussion about such accommodation between the two parties;
2. Deny a job or employment opportunity to a qualified employee based on the need for a reasonable accommodation;
3. Require an employee to take leave if reasonable accommodations would allow the employee to continue working;
4. Retaliate against an individual for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination under the PWFA or participating in a PWFA proceeding, such as an investigation; or
5. Interfere with any individuals’ rights under the PWFA.
Impact on Pregnant Workers
Previously, under federal law, pregnancy itself was not considered a disability entitled to reasonable accommodations under the ADA. Pursuant to the PUMP Act and the PWFA, protections and mandatory accommodations for pregnant workers have expanded.
PWFA will require covered employers to accommodate the needs and limitations of pregnant workers that were not formerly supported under federal law.
Bottom Line for Schools
School employers should review and update their accommodation policies to ensure they comply with the standards set forth in the PWFA. Further, they should provide their human resources and management personnel involved in evaluating and providing accommodation requests proper training to ensure that no employee is denied their right to reasonable accommodation.
School officials with questions about the PWFA should contact their solicitor or an attorney at KingSpry.