27 June 2023

Pregnant Workers Now Have Additional Protections Under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Don’t let the prevalence of generous parental leave policies and cozy lactation rooms cause you to think pregnancy discrimination claims are a thing of the past.  A recent survey showed that 1 in 5 mothers feel that they have experienced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Furthermore, nearly 1 in 4 mothers report that they have considered leaving their jobs because of a lack of reasonable accommodations or because they feel they have experienced pregnancy discrimination.

Data shows this survey is not an outlier.  According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it received 2,273 charges of pregnancy discrimination in 2022.  And more claims of pregnancy discrimination could be on the horizon.

Effective as of June 27, 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) adds protections for pregnant workers across the country in an effort to combat pregnancy discrimination.

The PWFA requires employers with 15 or more workers to provide reasonable accommodations to a worker’s known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations unless they would cause an undue hardship. The PWFA defines “reasonable accommodation” and “undue hardship” the same as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Some examples of reasonable accommodations may include receiving a closer parking spot; flexible hours; additional break times to use the restroom, eat, and rest; time off to recover from childbirth; and being excused from strenuous activities.

Although the PWFA closely mirrors the ADA, employers should be aware of a key difference. Under the ADA, a qualified individual is one who can perform the essential function of the position with or without a reasonable accommodation. The PWFA, however, requires employers to accommodate pregnant workers even if they cannot perform an essential function of their positions so long as their inability to do so is “for a temporary period” and the essential function can be performed “in the near future.”

Now that the PWFA is in effect, employers should review their accommodation policies to ensure compliance. Employers should also be mindful of the differences between the PWFA and the ADA, which will require employers to undertake a different analysis for pregnancy-related accommodation requests.


If you have questions about the PWFA or your workplace accommodation policies, please contact Breanne Gilliam.