Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Final Rule

Pregnancy discrimination accommodations.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released a final rule to implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The PWFA requires most employers with 15 or more employees to provide “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant workers’ known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. An exception is if the accommodation causes undue hardship to the employer. The final rule will be published in the Federal Register on Apr. 19 and will take effect 60 days after publication.

This rule builds upon existing protections against pregnancy discrimination and access to reasonable accommodations. The EEOC started accepting discrimination charges on June 27, 2023, when the PWFA became effective.

The final rule provides clarity to employers and workers about who is covered, the types of limitations and medical conditions covered, how individuals can request reasonable accommodations and numerous concrete examples. It reflects the EEOC’s response to approximately 100,000 public comments received on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

The PWFA empowers pregnant workers by providing them with clear access to reasonable accommodations, ensuring they can continue their jobs safely and effectively, free from discrimination and retaliation. This final rule, a testament to their rights, offers crucial information and guidance to help employers fulfill their responsibilities and to help job seekers and employees understand their rights. It fosters a culture of open communication, encouraging employers and employees to engage early and often, enabling them to identify and resolve issues in a timely manner.

The final regulation provides numerous examples of reasonable accommodations, such as

  • additional breaks to drink water, eat, or use the restroom;
  • a stool to sit on while working;
  • time off for health care appointments;
  • temporary reassignment;
  • temporary suspension of certain job duties;
  • telework;
  • time off to recover from childbirth or a miscarriage, among others.

It also provides guidance regarding limitations and medical conditions for which employees or applicants may seek reasonable accommodation. This includes miscarriage or stillbirth, migraines, lactation, and pregnancy-related conditions that are episodic, such as morning sickness.

The final regulation underscores the importance of early and frequent communication between employers and workers. It emphasizes the shared responsibility in raising and resolving requests for reasonable accommodation in a timely manner. It also clarifies that an employer is not required to seek supporting documentation when an employee asks for reasonable accommodation and should only do so when it is reasonable under the circumstances, fostering a sense of mutual trust and respect.

The final regulation explains when an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on an employer and its business. It also provides information on how employers may assert defenses or exemptions, including those based on religion, as early as possible in charge processing.