Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA): What Employers Should Know
What is the PWFA?
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) requires certain employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” for an employee with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, unless the accommodation will cause the employer an “undue hardship.” The law applies to employers with 15 or more employees and went into effect June 27, 2023.
Although employees are entitled to reasonable accommodations, they are not entitled to choose the reasonable accommodation. The PWFA provides a defense for employers who work in good faith with employees to identify alternative reasonable accommodations that are equally effective to those the employee suggests and do not cause undue hardship.
Under the PWFA, Employers Cannot:
- Require an employee to accept an accommodation without a discussion about the accommodation between the employee and the employer;
- Deny a job or other employment opportunities to a qualified employee or applicant based on the person's need for a reasonable accommodation;
- Require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided that would let the employee keep working;
- Retaliate against an individual for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination under the PWFA or participating in a PWFA proceeding (such as an investigation); or
- Interfere with any individual’s rights under the PWFA.
What Accommodations are Reasonable?
Examples of reasonable accommodations under the PWFA include providing employees with additional breaks to rest, eat, or use the bathroom or allowing employees the ability to sit or drink water. Reasonable accommodations also include excusing employees from performing overly strenuous work, allowing them time off to recover from childbirth, offering flexible hours, or providing closer parking spaces.
The PWFA does not replace federal, state, or local laws that are more protective of employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
What Else Should Employers in Texas Know?
The PWFA only applies to accommodations. Existing laws, such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act under Title VII, that are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), make it illegal to discriminate against employees on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
In addition to steps employers currently take to accommodate work injuries – such as modified duty and ADA assessments for permanent work injuries – employers must also be mindful of additional requirements and all applicable laws. These additional requirements would now apply to injured Texas workers that are also pregnant when injured, or become pregnant while working modified duty. Employers may also need to take it into consideration when negotiating/drafting work injury settlements, particularly if the settlement incorporates the employee’s resignation/termination.
Have questions about the PWFA or how it applies to your business? Reach out to your PartnerSource team leader today.