ACLU Applauds EEOC Final Regulations for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

April 15, 2024 2:49 pm

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced the release of its final regulations implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The PWFA, the first federal statute in 45 years aimed at safeguarding the rights of pregnant workers, fills a significant gap in existing law and provides crucial protections to pregnant workers across the nation.

The new regulations provide comprehensive guidance to workers, employers, and the courts, detailing the protections afforded by the PWFA and clarifying the responsibilities of employers in accommodating pregnancy-related limitations. These accommodations can range from minor adjustments, such as flexible start times to accommodate morning sickness, to more significant changes, including the suspension of duties that pose risks to maternal or fetal health.

“Millions of individuals, particularly Black and Brown women who face disproportionate risks of maternal morbidity and mortality, are often required to perform strenuous duties in workplaces as varied as health care, retail, and law enforcement, which can pose significant risks during pregnancy,” said Gillian Thomas, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project. “Despite the clear need for temporary accommodations to safeguard their health, these individuals are routinely denied such modifications. The PWFA, and the EEOC’s regulations implementing it, are a critical step to protect the health and well-being of pregnant workers, particularly those from marginalized communities who are often overlooked.”

Passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in December 2022, PWFA mandates “reasonable accommodations” for workers who have limitations caused by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions unless providing them would impose an “undue hardship” on their employer.

The EEOC regulations clarify that “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” under the PWFA include abortion, making time off for abortion care a required “reasonable accommodation.” This interpretation aligns with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which prohibits discrimination based on these conditions. Courts and guidelines since then have consistently upheld this interpretation, extending protections to various pre- and post-partum reproductive needs. The EEOC’s regulations are consistent with longstanding legal precedent and congressional intent.

“The regulations also make clear that workers should not face procedural hurdles when seeking needed accommodations, particularly in light of the urgency of many pregnancy-related conditions,” said Vania Leveille, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU. “For instance, workers do not have to use ‘magic words’ or legalese to communicate their need for accommodation, and employers may not demand onerous medical certifications.”

The final regulations for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act can be found here:

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