Pregnant workers get huge win with new federal law

Washington DC - Starting Tuesday, millions of pregnant and postpartum workers across the US could be legally entitled to accommodations including longer breaks, shorter working hours, and time off for medical appointments as the Pregnancy Fairness Act goes into effect.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act went into effect on Tuesday.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act went into effect on Tuesday.  © unsplash/Alicia Petresc

The new federal law mandates that employers with 15 or more employees, including hourly workers, provide "reasonable accommodations" for workers who need them due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

This is a big deal, and could affect an estimated 2.8 million workers annually, according to NBC.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) has been in the works for over a decade and finally passed in December 2022 with bipartisan support.

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With this new law, pregnant employees will no longer have to prove that their needs should be accommodated. Instead, the responsibility will now fall on employers to work in good faith with workers to provide accommodations.

In other words, it aims to strengthen protections for pregnant employees across the board.

According to the EEOC, eight out of 10 first-time pregnant employees work until their final month of pregnancy.

What does the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act promise pregnant employees?

An official list of "reasonable accommodations" is still in the works, per the EEOC, but the House Committee on Education and Labor Report on the PWFA gave several examples.

These include giving pregnant people the ability to sit or drink water, park closer to work, work more flexible hours, and get appropriately sized work-related clothing. They could also require more time for bathroom breaks, eating, resting, and additional leave or time off for childbirth.

Under the new law, employers may also be required to temporarily excuse pregnant workers from strenuous activities or tasks that involve potentially harmful exposure.

Employers would be required to provide these accommodations unless they would cause an "undue hardship" for a company's operations.

Dina Bakst, the co-president of A Better Balance, a national advocacy organization that helped Congress draft the new law, described the passage of the law as a big win.

"The passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will truly change the health and economic trajectory for millions of women and families," Bakst said in a press release.

Cover photo: unsplash/Alicia Petresc

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