- PWFA was one of the two new bipartisan pieces of legislation that were officially signed into law on Dec. 29, 2022, and it was recently passed by Congress as an amendment to the FY23 Federal Spending Bill.
- Your company may need a designated space for breastfeeding or pumping if there is not already one.
- This pivotal piece of legislation instructs U.S. employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for known limitations associated with pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
A federal law called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is now being enforced that expands protections for pregnant and nursing workers in the United States.
The PWFA is considered a bipartisan step forward for women’s rights in the workforce. The law seeks to address situations where pregnant employees may face discrimination, such as being fired, denied a promotion, or not receiving the same benefits or accommodations as non-pregnant employees.
By successfully updating your company’s policies to help accommodate pregnant employees, present or future, you’re not only following the law — you are helping to develop a more friendly and open work environment that benefits the future of work for mothers.
These laws can improve work-life balance for women, as accommodations such as modified work schedules or additional breaks can help alleviate the physical and medical challenges that pregnant women may face. By providing support and protections for pregnant workers, these laws aim to promote women’s health, economic stability, and equal opportunities in the workplace.
What does the PWFA Enforce?
The PWFA is a pivotal piece of legislation that instructs U.S. employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for known limitations associated with pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
The federal law, which took effect on June 27, applies to both existing employees and potential job applicants. The only exceptions to the rule are in cases where such accommodations would result in undue hardship for the employer.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “Undue hardship is determined by looking at the difficulty or expense of compliance for a specific employer in comparison to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.”
How does this impact your company?
If you are an employer, your business will need to address these items:
- Update the pregnancy accommodations policy in your employee handbook.
- Be aware of state and city laws that may already address these issues, and make sure that your company policies encompass the most accommodating laws.
- Educate company managers on PWFA and accommodations that may be required for pregnant employees.
This is not an exhaustive list of what your business should do to ensure that all your bases are covered in respect to the PWFA and employee needs. However, it’s a great start.
Your company may also need a designated space for breastfeeding or pumping if there is not already one. Keep in mind that this space cannot be a bathroom, as stated under the PUMP Act.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “an employer may create or convert a temporary space for expressing milk or make a space available when needed. The space must be shielded from view and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public.”
Also, keep in mind that break time used to pump breast milk must be compensated as long as the employee is not completely relieved from work duties, as defined in Fact Sheet #22 by the Department of Labor.
When was PWFA Signed, and Where Does It Apply?
PWFA was one of the two new bipartisan pieces of legislation that were officially signed into law on Dec. 29, 2022. More specifically, PWFA was signed the same day as the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers (PUMP) Act, a companion bill which gives working mothers additional legal protections and the freedom to breast pump during work hours for up to one year after the child’s birth.
The PUMP Act went into effect the same day it was signed, on December 29, 2022 and was an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). PWFA, on the other hand, was included as an amendment to the The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (FY23 Federal Spending Bill) and it’s now enforced.
You might be surprised to learn that there are over 30 states and cities that have pre-existing laws that provide accommodations for pregnant workers. Some of those pre-existing laws may actually take precedence over the more recent PWFA.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “The PWFA does not replace federal, state, or local laws that are more protective of workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”
What are “Reasonable Accommodations” Under the PWFA?
According to the EEOC, “‘reasonable accommodations’ are changes to the work environment or the way things are usually done at work.”
For a pregnant or nursing worker, these accommodations may include things like closer parking, flexible work hours, additional break time, and being excused from strenuous activities that may be unsafe for the pregnancy.
These kinds of accommodations must be provided by “covered employers” including private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees, Congress, Federal agencies, employment agencies, and labor organizations, according to the EEOC.
The enforcement of the PWFA signifies a step forward in promoting gender equality and workplace inclusivity. The law addresses issues of discrimination and ensures parity in benefits and treatment. By updating your company policies and creating supportive work environments, you can nurture a culture that embraces the needs of all employees, enhancing work-life balance for everyone and ultimately ensuring you are setting an example for other leaders in your industry.