Pregnant Staff Equity Act Goes to the Senate

Related Practices and Jurisdictions

Thursday, August 12, 2021

On May 14, 2021, the US House of Representatives passed HR 1065, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), a bipartisan law requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodation for pregnant workers. The bill’s provisions are designed to clarify the protection of pregnant workers under federal anti-discrimination laws and to fill the loopholes between Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Recently the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) submitted the PWFA with 19-2 votes in favor of approving the measure and forwarding it to the entire Senate for consideration. The draft law has thus come one step closer to the law. Here you will find answers to three frequently asked questions about the PWFA.

Question 1. What is the purpose of the PWFA’s accommodation obligation?

Answer 1. The placement requirement is borrowed from the ADA and would apply to pregnant workers. It would require employers to make reasonable provisions for conditions related to pregnancy, such as help with lifting heavy loads and more frequent toilet breaks.

Q2. What are the possible effects of the legislation on job applicants?

A2. As with other state discrimination laws, extending protection to job applicants is designed to ensure that pregnant workers are not prevented from entering the job market in the first place.

Q3. What gaps in Title VII and the ADA would the bill fill?

A3. While these laws provide protection for certain pregnant workers in certain situations, they do not require employers to provide reasonable accommodation for pregnant workers in general. The ADA has the concept of adequate accommodation, but pregnancy is not a disability for the purposes of the ADA. For example, under the PWFA, employers would be required to accept pregnant workers in general, not just pregnant workers with pregnancy-related complications.

If the law is passed, it will ensure equal treatment for pregnant workers and improve health outcomes for pregnant workers and their children. It will also fill in loopholes in federal law that the United States Supreme Court has not fully addressed.

© 2021, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC, all rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 224

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