Navigating the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: A Guide for Employers

The legal landscape is ever-evolving and it’s critical that your organization stays ahead of the curve. The recent Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), implemented by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), is one such important law that merits immediate attention. 

On June 27, 2023, PWFA went into effect. Our team at CPMT has reviewed the Act in detail and this article is meant to provide a deeper understanding of its implications and recommendations for your business.

Unpacking the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

In conjunction with existing anti-discrimination legislation, the PWFA is designed to prevent workplace discrimination by compelling Covered Employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or associated conditions. 

Covered Employers include public and private sector employers with 15 or more employees. An accommodation is deemed "reasonable" if it does not impose an undue hardship on the operational aspects of the business. 

These accommodations may take multiple forms, such as schedule modifications, provision of specific equipment, temporary assignment to lighter duty,  granting more frequent breaks, access to a closer parking spot,  flexible hours, or permitting telework when a job can be performed remotely.

Implications of Non-Compliance

Failureto adhere to the PWFA and/or failure to update your posted employee notices could result in penalties and potential legal actions. Moreover, it could impact your reputation negatively, eroding trust among your employees and the public. 

Adherence to the PWFA is not merely a matter of legal compliance, it is also an opportunity to foster an inclusive, diverse, and empathetic workplace.

Three Essential Steps to Comply with PWFA

To ensure you’re not only compliant but also fostering a positive environment for all employees, here are three crucial steps:

1) Policy Review and Update

Begin by making a comprehensive review of existing policies related to pregnancy and related conditions. 

Update existing policies and your posted employee notices regarding workplace discrimination to align with the PWFA and other recently enacted legislation such as the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (The PUMP Act). 

This could involve clarifying definitions, outlining potential accommodations, and ensuring that there are no existing policies that inadvertently counter the requirements of the PWFA.

2) Training and Education

After updating the policies, conduct training sessions for managers, supervisors, and HR personnel. 

All personnel need to understand the changes, how to respond to accommodation requests, and the correct procedures to follow in light of the PWFA.

3) Effective Communication and Support

Lastly, effectively communicate these changes to all employees in your organization. This should go beyond just posting a notice or adding a new clause in the handbook. 

Consider holding information sessions or Q&A forums to address concerns and questions. Encourage a culture where employees feel comfortable discussing their needs related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Vigilance and Continuous Improvement

To ensure ongoing compliance, regularly monitor your workplace practices and continue to educate your workforce about PWFA. 

Promptly address any concerns or issues that arise and strive for a continuous improvement approach to your policies and procedures.

At CPMT, we're dedicated to supporting you in navigating these complex legalities. 

We are here to help you better understand and apply these changes in your organization. If you have any questions or need further assistance aligning your policies with the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, please reach out to us.

Remember, legal compliance goes hand in hand with fostering an inclusive and respectful workplace environment.

Together, let's ensure that your business continues to uphold these values.