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EEOC Issues Final Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Regulations

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has finalized its regulations for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”), which went into effect last summer. After issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in August 2023, summarized here, and a notice and comment period, the EEOC published the Final Rule in the Federal Register on April 19, 2024.

As previously reported, the PWFA is modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations based on known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Employers are not required to grant an accommodation request if it imposes an undue hardship. The terms “reasonable accommodation” and “undue hardship” have the same meaning as under the ADA and employers should follow the same interactive process after receiving a request for an accommodation.

Below are significant points from the final regulations:

  • Lactation, miscarriage, stillbirth, episodic pregnancy-related conditions (such as morning sickness) and “having or choosing not to have an abortion” are readily apparent medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth for which employees can seek reasonable accommodations.
  • Reasonable accommodations can include: additional breaks to drink water, eat, or use the restroom; a stool to sit on while working; reserved parking; modification of equipment or uniforms; time off for health care appointments; temporary reassignment; temporary suspension of certain job duties; telework; or time off to recover from childbirth or a miscarriage, among others.
  • Time off is unpaid, unless employers’ policies indicate otherwise.
  • Early and frequent communication between employers and employees is encouraged in order to raise and resolve requests for reasonable accommodation in a timely manner.
  • Employers are not required to seek supporting documentation when an employee asks for a reasonable accommodation under the PWFA and should only do so when it is reasonable under the circumstances.

The regulations also provided further explanation on key issues for employers, including:

  • When an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on an employer and its business; and
  • How employers may assert defenses or exemptions (including those based on religion) to accommodation requirements if an employee files a discrimination charge.

The regulations go into effect on June 18, 2024. If you have any questions about the PWFA, please contact Katie McLaughlin or any member of Frantz Ward’s Labor & Employment Group.

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