In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the need to protect the rights of pregnant employees and ensure that they receive the necessary accommodations to thrive in the workplace. Federal legislation in the United States has been put in place to address these concerns comprehensively.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act ("PWFA"), which went into effect June 27, 2023, requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless it causes undue hardship. The PWFA does not replace more protective federal, state, or local laws, and the EEOC will start accepting charges under the PWFA starting June 27, 2023.
Non-Discrimination in Pregnancy-Related Accommodations
One of the central pillars of this legislation is the prevention of discrimination against pregnant employees. Under Section 2000gg-1, it is deemed an unlawful employment practice for a "covered entity" (which generally includes employers with 15 or more employees) to fail to make reasonable accommodations for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions unless they can demonstrate that such accommodations would impose an undue hardship on their business operations. Below are additional requirements for covered entities:
Mandatory Interactive Process: When determining reasonable accommodations, qualified employees affected by pregnancy or related conditions should be engaged in an interactive process to identify the most suitable accommodation.
Equal Employment Opportunities: Denying employment opportunities to a qualified employee based on the need for accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions is prohibited.
Alternative to Leave: Covered entities cannot require a qualified employee to take leave (whether paid or unpaid) if another reasonable accommodation can be provided to address pregnancy-related limitations.
Protection from Retaliation: It is unlawful to take adverse actions against an employee for requesting or using reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy.
Remedies and Enforcement
To ensure that these provisions are upheld, Section 2000gg-2 establishes a robust framework for remedies and enforcement. The specific procedures differ based on the law that applies to the employee, which can be the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, Title 3 of the United States Code, the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991, or Section 717 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In essence, employees who experience discrimination or denial of accommodations have avenues for redress, including legal actions that may lead to damages being awarded.
State Immunity and Relationship to Other Laws
Section 2000gg-4 clarifies that states are not immune from legal action for violations of this legislation, thus bolstering its enforceability. Moreover, Section 2000gg-5 emphasizes that this legislation does not invalidate or limit the powers, remedies, and procedures available under other federal, state, or local laws that offer equal or greater protection for individuals affected by pregnancy-related conditions.
The legal framework established by this legislation is a significant step towards ensuring that pregnant employees receive the accommodations and protections they deserve in the workplace. By prohibiting discrimination, providing remedies, and clarifying regulations, this legislation works to create a fairer and more equitable work environment for all employees, regardless of their pregnancy status. It is a testament to the ongoing efforts to safeguard employees' rights and promote workplace fairness.
If you have any questions regarding your company's policies or need guidance on California employment law, contact the Law Office of Catherine Chukwueke and schedule a consultation. We are here to help you navigate the complexities of employment law with confidence.
Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice.