After more than a decade of trying, Congress finally passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The PWFA has broken the impasse as part of her $1.7 trillion government funding bill, which should pass Congress at the end of December 2022.
When the PWFA takes effect on June 27, 2023, employers with at least 15 employees will be able to treat eligible employees just as they would treat employees with disabilities. You have to deal with a certain qualified employee. Business operations.
Since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed in 1978, it has been illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”[.]42 USC § 2000e(k). The PDA also states that “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions should be treated like other persons unaffected but of similar capacity or ability to work for all employment-related purposes. It also requires that[.]”
This same treatment requirement effectively allows the PDA to place employees with temporary pregnancy-related medical conditions on the same status as employees with disabilities that employers must reasonably accommodate under the ADA. If an employee is deemed or injured on the job, there are every incentive for the employer to respond.
Federal appeals courts interpreted the PDA differently until the Supreme Court ruled in 2015. Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc.. young If a PDA plaintiff demonstrates that an employer has incarcerated another person who is “similar in ability or capacity to work,” the employer may have legal sanctions to deny internment of the pregnant worker. A non-discriminatory reason must be identified. If the employer does so, the employee must prove that the employer’s reason was pretext. The court said PDA plaintiffs would generally prevail if there was evidence that while employers accommodated a significant number of non-pregnant employees, they were unable to accommodate the majority of pregnant employees. .
in the meantime young Seen as a big win for pregnant workers, the decision left employers more room to defend their decisions to accommodate certain categories of workers.for example, An employee suffering a worker’s compensation injury. On the other hand, it does not accommodate pregnant employees who have similar restrictions on their ability to work.
Entering the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
The newly passed PWFA expressly requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions for eligible employees. doing. PWFA protections mirror those set forth in the ADA, adopting the same meanings as “reasonable accommodation” and “unreasonable hardship,” and require a two-way process. As with the ADA, pregnant employees are not entitled to accommodations of their own choosing. However, the PWFA clarifies that an employer may not require an employee to take time off (paid or unpaid) when there are other effective and reasonable accommodations that do not create undue hardship.
Conclusion for Employers
Whether the PWFA represents a change from the status quo varies by state. Since 2000, when Congress refused to pass additional protections for pregnant employees, more than 30 states have passed protections beyond federal requirements under her PDA. In 2018 Massachusetts amended her MGL c. 151B, §4 Explicitly requesting reasonable accommodation for an employee’s pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition. unless the accommodations impose an undue burden on the employer.
Similarly, Maine amended the Maine Human Rights Act (5 MRS §4572-A) in 2019 to codify essentially the same protections as provided in the PWFA. By contrast, employers in states that have not expanded state-level protections for pregnant workers will need to adjust their policies and approaches to accommodate temporary restrictions related to pregnancy or childbirth.
The types of accommodations that employers are required to provide in connection with pregnancy or childbirth vary depending on the underlying conditions or restrictions. For example, an employee resting in bed may need to work remotely. Pregnant workers with carpal tunnel syndrome may need a dictation program or note taker. Employees with edema may require a chair, more frequent breaks, or an exception to the footwear policy. Pregnant workers with high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia may need to limit physical activity.
As under the ADA, requests for pregnancy-related accommodations under the PWFA should prompt individual analysis. Also, as under the ADA, what is a necessary, effective, and reasonable accommodation depends on the facts, including, but not limited to, the employee’s needs, the nature of the business, and the employer’s resources. and depends on the situation.
©2023 Pierce Atwood LLP. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XIII, No. 10