Civil Rights Groups Submit Brief in Support of Landmark Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

More than 20 Workers’ Rights, Gender Justice, and Faith Organizations Submit an Amicus Brief Opposing Attacks on Workplace Accommodations

Affiliate: ACLU of Louisiana
June 11, 2024 1:22 pm

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NEW ORLEANS — Yesterday, a broad coalition of 21 workers’ rights, gender justice, and faith organizations — led by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Louisiana, and the National Women’s Law Center — filed an amicus brief in a Louisiana federal district court supporting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) regulations implementing the landmark Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA).

The PWFA, which took effect last year, was the culmination of a decade-long campaign to secure access to reasonable accommodations for workers with temporary limitations caused by “pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.” The EEOC’s regulations, due to become effective on June 18, 2024, provide comprehensive guidance to workers, employers, and the courts about the statute’s range of protections.

The amicus brief filed in the Louisiana case concerns the consolidated allegations raised in two lawsuits that aim to halt implementation of the PWFA regulations indefinitely. In response to this latest attempt by anti-abortion extremists, the brief shows how abortion is a part of the full spectrum of pregnancy-related needs that the PWFA is intended to protect. It also documents multiple accounts of workers – disproportionately those in low-wage and male-dominated industries – who report being denied needed accommodations for a host of pregnancy-related needs since the new law went into effect last year, with devastating medical and financial consequences. Such accounts illustrate why the EEOC’s regulations are key to the PWFA’s enforcement.

Last month, the states of Louisiana and Mississippi filed a lawsuit challenging the EEOC’s inclusion of abortion among the list of pregnancy-related conditions entitled to reasonable accommodation under the statute. The states are seeking to permanently stop the part of the rule relating to abortion accommodations from going into effect and to nullify the whole rule while the case is pending. That action comes on the heels of an identical challenge brought by 17 other states, filed in an Arkansas federal court. Also last month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic University, and two Louisiana dioceses filed suit in Louisiana, falsely contending that the EEOC regulations violate their religious freedoms. The cases were consolidated last week by U.S. District Court Judge David Joseph, who will hear argument on the preliminary injunction motions on June 12.

Yesterday’s amicus brief filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of Louisiana, and the National Women’s Law Center supports the EEOC’s opposition to these efforts, urging that the regulations be permitted to go into effect on schedule.

“The plaintiffs, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which supported passage of the PWFA, are asking the court to strike all of the final regulations, not just the provisions related to abortion,” said Gillian Thomas, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “They claim that the regulations aren’t needed, even though the law specifically directed the EEOC to issue them, and even though the vast majority of the regulations concern accommodations needed by pregnant workers, such as allowing extra bathroom breaks or taking time off for prenatal visits.”

“The plaintiffs in this case are attempting to undermine one of the primary goals of PWFA: to protect the health and economic security of pregnant workers,” said Gaylynn Burroughs, NWLC director of workplace equality. “Religion should not be used to harm workers seeking health care. In the year since the PWFA went into effect, employers have continued to deny a wide range of accommodations, even when pregnant workers are experiencing medical emergencies. The EEOC’s regulations make plain that these practices are unlawful, and are essential to ensure that pregnant workers no longer have to choose between their well-being and their job.”

A copy of the brief can be found here.

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