Pregnancy alone is not a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This has been a gray area for employers on how best to accommodate pregnant workers with temporary limitations. But now, new federal laws give greater protections for pregnant employees and more clarity to help employers provide accommodations.
Here are 3 things employers should know about the new laws:
1. What Are the New Protections?
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), effective June 23, 2023, protects pregnant workers and job applicants who have temporary physical or mental limitations due to pregnancy, childbirth or other related conditions. The PWFA applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
The Act requires employers to provide ADA-like reasonable accommodations so long as those accommodations do not impose an undue hardship on the business. As I mentioned in my note yesterday, some of those accommodations could be modified equipment, special seating arrangements, extra breaks or even providing leave. I encourage employers to be creative and collaborate with the employee to find an appropriate solution.
What’s changed. Previously, employers were only required to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers when their pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions rose to the level of a disability under the ADA, when required by state law, or when accommodations were made for other similarly situated workers who were not pregnant.
3. How To Prepare for the New Laws
Faced with the quick applicability of these new laws, employers should:
· Take note that the Pregnancy Discrimination Action of 1978 already prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or other related conditions. Many local and state laws already provide similar or better protections. These new laws do not preempt local and state laws that provide more generous protections.
· Review existing employment policies to ensure compliance with these new laws and update them if necessary. Update your Employee Handbooks!
· Create a process for employees to request an accommodation due to pregnancy-related limitations.
· Train management on how to handle accommodation requests.
Additionally, promoting an inclusive work culture that respects the needs of co-workers who require accommodations can help reinforce the importance of these laws and of support for everyone’s well-being.
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