March is Women’s History Month. Despite our nation’s extensive history, only 100 years have passed since women have had the right to vote – and a few decades since discrimination against women in the workplace has been illegal — making the legal landscape surrounding women’s rights still relatively new.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (the “Act”) adds additional protections to childbearing women in the workplace. The Act was passed in December 2022 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act – and goes into effect on June 27, 2023. The original Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, applying to employers with 15 or more employees.
The Act places additional express requirements on employers with 15 or more employees. Keep the following in mind:
- The Act incorporates many of the concepts that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires surrounding reasonable accommodations. For example, both laws require that employers engage in the interactive process on any request for a reasonable accommodation. The Act goes a step further than the ADA by expressly permitting reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers – without a need to prove that the pregnant worker is disabled (a fact-intensive and sometimes challenging component of the ADA).
- The Act further place an affirmative obligation on employers to review reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers aside from unpaid or paid leave. Examples of potential reasonable accommodations might include an additional break during the day or a special desk/equipment to address a woman’s pregnancy-related physical condition. In the past, many employers “defaulted” to time out of the office – however, the Act seemingly seeks to prevent absences from work that may prevent advancement.
- Employers should ensure that their policies and training reflect the need for expansive discussions on reasonable accommodations for pregnant women – including job candidates. I recommend that management/recruiting teams are trained on how to approach requests for reasonable accommodations so that exposure to liability is minimized.
Feel free to reach out to me to discuss your workplace’s policy on pregnant workers.
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ABOUT THEODORA STRINGHAM
firstname.lastname@example.org | 703.745.1849
Theodora Stringham assists individuals, businesses, and organizations with growing successfully while minimizing liability. Focusing on real estate and personnel needs, Ms. Stringham executes sustainable plans for real estate development and employee matters. She provides comprehensive representation for everyday growth issues, including, but not limited to, re-zonings, site plan approvals, eminent domain/valuation concerns, employment discrimination, and disciplinary issues. Ms. Stringham’s scope of representation ranges from identifying potential liability and providing counseling/trainings, all the way through representation at trial.