by Flex HR

What You Should Know about the New Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

In the past few years, many types of discrimination in the workplace have come to light. Awareness about discrimination against minorities or those with disability in the workplace has led to some great changes.

Unfortunately, pregnant employees still face unfair treatment at work.

Parental Leave PWFA Pregnant


At Symphony Deerbrook, a nursing home in Illinois, many workers faced employment discrimination and were fired because they were pregnant.

The nursing home required employees to inform their employer of pregnancies while not requiring disclosure of other medical conditions.

When employees informed Symphony that they were pregnant, they were fired. The nursing home must now pay $400,000 to settle a lawsuit from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Situations like this make it apparent that there is still a problem with pregnancy discrimination today, making laws like the new Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) essential.

What Does the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Mean for Employers Like Me?

The PWFA went into effect June 27, 2023, making it required by law to offer work accommodations for any pregnant person.

The PWFA requires employers with 15 or more employees in the private and public sectors employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant workers related to pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions caused by pregnancy.

Reasonable accommodations include anything from allowing the worker to drink more water to taking more breaks and sitting down. There are many other accommodations employers should make that won’t hurt them financially or make the workplace too chaotic.

Additionally, over 30 states have more laws pertaining to protecting the rights and needs of pregnant workers.

Pregnant HR Policies Family Leave FMLA


What If I Have Less than 15 Employees?

At Flex HR, we like to advocate for taking the more compassionate, empathetic road. Thus, if you have less than 15 employees, you might not be required to allow your pregnant employee to drink more water, but it is the kinder choice and will make for a happier and healthy employee.

Furthermore, though you might not have 15 employees today, you should always have policies in place that can easily be enacted when you grow. It’s best to cover your bases early.

What Is the Process for Implementing Workplace Accommodations for Pregnant Employees?

Before the PWFA went into effect, pregnancy accommodations and leave were mandated through the ADA, but only if the pregnancy caused medical problems that would be considered disability. Now, employers like you need to find practical ways to implement accommodations that are reasonable and don’t disrupt the work environment.

Similar to the process of an ADA, employers cannot require employees to accept a reasonable accommodation without going through an interactive process, and employers have the right to deny reasonable accommodations requests if they would impose an undue hardship on their business operations.

If you’re wondering what qualifies as reasonable and what would be considered undue hardship, you should consult legal counsel before denying an accommodation request, given the potential legal ramifications.

The process of making accommodations should look something like this:

  • The employer and worker discuss needed accommodations. The employer may not deny the person a job or employment opportunities based on their need for these accommodations, nor require them to take a leave if the accommodations can be made.
  • Look at the critical components of their job and discuss whether they can continue in these.
  • If any accommodations can be reasonably made, put them in place.
  • Don’t rush to make accommodations that may cause your business setbacks and hardships, but always consult legal before denying accommodations.
  • Check in with your pregnant employee as pregnancy progresses.

What Other Protections for Pregnant Workers and Nursing Mothers Should I Be Aware of?

If your pregnant employee has a medical condition or disability resulting from pregnancy or childbirth, investigate whether they would be covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Title VII is enforced by the EEOC and protects employees who have a resulting disability from pregnancy or childbirth from discrimination.

You should also be aware of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 which advocates for employees to have unpaid, protected leave for some family and medical situations.

Lastly, nursing mothers may need accommodations to pump breast milk, which are legally required under the U.S. Department of Labor’s PUMP Act (Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act), which was signed into law December 29, 2022.

The PUMP Act no longer excludes hourly employees and protects mothers who want to breastfeed their child and work for businesses with 50 or more employees. These employees need break time and a private place to pump (other than a bathroom) for up to one year after their child is born.

If an employee is working while pumping, the time should be counted as hours worked.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

How Flex HR Can Help

We would love to lend our consultation services to help you sit down with your pregnant employees to figure out the accommodations they need and how you can meet some of those.

Stephanie Ledford, HR Consultant with Flex HR emphasizes that “employers should not just implement PWFA policies and practices to be compliant, but because it will enhance the organizational culture and can improve retention and recruitment efforts for the future.”

We help you learn the nuisances of the federal, state, and local laws related to pregnancy accommodations and rewrite your handbook to meet these requirements.

More than the legal side, we can help you assess whether the accommodations you are prepared to make align with your company values and workplace culture.

We can also help you implement training regarding these new laws to help managers and employees understand their rights and obligations. Contact us now!