The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and prohibited discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. While the PDA has allowed many women to keep their jobs despite pregnancy and stopped employers from firing workers “in the family way” simply because they found it unseemly or inconvenient – the Act does not specifically require employers to provide specific accommodations for their pregnant workers.
This omission has left pregnant employees exceptionally vulnerable when, in the ordinary course of their pregnancies, they become temporarily unable to work without some adjustments. Although the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for employees who have disabilities, the courts have routinely ruled that a typical pregnancy is not considered a disability.
That left a lot of employers off the hook when it came to making sure that pregnant workers are treated fairly – and a lot of pregnant workers coping on their own with the adverse consequences. Women have been placed on forced leave or fired, for example, simply because they were given lifting restrictions or required extra bathroom breaks during the late stages of their pregnancies, even though other workers with different conditions might be granted those same accommodations.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act changes the rules for the better
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) now requires covered employers (generally any employer with at least 15 employees) to provide “reasonable accommodations” to workers who have limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or any related medical condition so long as those accommodations don’t cause the employer an “undue burden.”
In other words, the PWFA brings pregnant workers into the ADA fold via a new piece of legislation. Charges of pregnancy-related discrimination can now be accepted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for any incidents that occurred on or after the PWFA went into effect on June 27, 2023.
Knowing your rights is the first step in battling workplace discrimination. The PWFA gives pregnant workers new power – and additional recourse when they are treated unfairly. If you’ve been negatively affected by an employer’s refusal to make reasonable accommodations for your pregnancy, it may be time to find out more.