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EEOC Releases Final Regulations for Pregnant Workers Fairness Act  

On April 15, 2024, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued final regulations for implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The EEOC began accepting charges of discrimination on June 27, 2023, the day on which the PWFA became effective. 

For background, the PWFA requires most employers with 15 or more employees to provide “reasonable accommodations,” or changes at work, for a worker’s known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation will cause the employer an undue hardship. 

The EEOC issued its proposed regulations to implement the PWFA for public comment on August 7, 2023. The proposed regulations were met with immediate controversy; however, the final regulations changed little from the proposed version. The final regulations will take effect on June 18, 2024

Highlights from the final regulation include: 

  • A non-exhaustive list of circumstances that fall under the broad coverage of the law, including: 
    • Current, past, and potential pregnancy; 
    • Infertility and fertility treatment; 
    • The use of contraception; 
    • Termination of pregnancy (including miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion); 
    • Pregnancy-related sicknesses, ranging from nausea or vomiting to edema, from preeclampsia to carpal tunnel syndrome, and many other pregnancy-related conditions; 
    • Lactation and issues associated with lactation; and 
    • Menstruation. 
  • Various examples of reasonable accommodations, including extra breaks for water, eating, or restroom use; a stool for sitting while working; time off for medical appointments; temporary job reassignment; pausing specific job duties temporarily; remote work options; or leave for childbirth recovery or miscarriage. 
  • Guidelines outline limitations and medical conditions for which employees or applicants can request reasonable accommodation, like miscarriage, migraines, lactation, and episodic pregnancy-related issues such as morning sickness. These guidelines are based on legal statutes and court interpretations. 
  • The regulations emphasize the importance of open communication between employers and employees to swiftly address reasonable accommodation requests. 
  • Employers are generally not required to request supporting documentation immediately when an employee seeks a reasonable accommodation, only when reasonable under the circumstances. 
  • Explanation provided on when an accommodation request could create an undue hardship for an employer. 
  • Information on how employers can present defenses or exemptions, including those based on religious grounds, early in the accommodation request process. 

Next Steps 

Employers are encouraged to review the final regulations to ensure they are meeting their compliance obligations. Employers should ensure that their reasonable accommodation policies and procedures cover pregnancy-related accommodations. Like the ADA, when an employee requests an accommodation under the PWFA, employers must engage in the interactive process and make a reasonable accommodation absent an undue hardship. 

Supervisors/managers should also be trained in the organizations’ accommodation policies and procedures. 

Multistate employers may have employees in states or localities that have adopted pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions accommodation laws that are more generous than federal law and should ensure that they are adhering to the law that provides the greatest protection for the employee. 

Employers who need guidance in situations where they believe an undue hardship exists should consult with their legal counsel before denying an accommodation request. 

More information about the PWFA and the EEOC’s final regulations, including resources for employers and workers, is available on the EEOC’s “What You Should Know about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act” webpage. 

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.