The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alongside insights from DC Employment Lawyers, officially released proposed regulations for the implementation of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) in the Federal Register on Aug. 11, 2023. This significant development, drawing from existing laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), places unique obligations on covered employers. DC Employment Lawyers note that the proposed regulations redefine many familiar concepts, putting the onus on employers to establish undue hardship, even in cases where employees are unable to perform essential job functions for an extended period.
The 60-day comment period for the proposed regulations allows stakeholders, including DC Employment Lawyers, to provide input, with changes anticipated in the final version based on submitted comments. The PWFA mandates the EEOC to issue final regulations by December 29, 2023.
In effect since June 27, 2023, the PWFA requires employers with a minimum of 15 employees to provide reasonable accommodations, barring undue hardship, to qualified individuals with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. DC Employment Lawyers emphasize the importance of understanding the EEOC’s proposed regulations, which offer interpretations of the PWFA.
Key points highlighted by DC Employment Lawyers include:
Entitlement to Accommodation: Qualified employees with limitations due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions can request reasonable accommodations, and employers must grant them unless an undue hardship is demonstrated. Unlike the ADA, an employee unable to perform essential duties may still qualify.
Known Limitation: A “known limitation” refers to a mental or physical impediment related to pregnancy, communicated to the employer. DC Employment Lawyers stress that this term, unique to the PWFA, covers even uncomplicated pregnancies, without the need to prove a specific level of severity.
Covered Conditions: “Pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions” encompass a broad range, including termination of pregnancy, infertility, lactation, and various other related and non-unique conditions. DC Employment Lawyers note that conditions must be related to or affected by pregnancy or childbirth to fall under PWFA coverage.
Duration of Excused Essential Functions: Employers are required to excuse essential job functions for up to 40 weeks for each accommodation request, with exceptions allowed only if an undue hardship is demonstrated.
DC Employment Lawyers advise employers to closely monitor developments, engage in the comment process, and prepare for compliance with the final PWFA regulations, considering the nuanced interpretations provided by the EEOC.