EEOC Implements New Rule to Support Pregnant Workers, Following Senator Casey’s Advocacy

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued a final rule to implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), championed by U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). This significant development promises to fortify the rights of pregnant workers across the nation, ensuring they receive reasonable accommodations without jeopardizing their health or the health of their pregnancies.

Senator Casey, who has been a steadfast advocate for the PWFA since its introduction in 2012, expressed his satisfaction with the EEOC’s action. “I fought to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act so that women who want to work can do so without putting their pregnancies at risk,” Casey stated. With the final rule now in place, workers can expect protections such as access to stools, additional breaks, and other accommodations that support a healthy pregnancy while maintaining employment.

The PWFA, which builds on the protections against pregnancy discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide “reasonable accommodations” for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. The EEOC began accepting charges of discrimination under the PWFA on June 27, 2023, marking a new era of enforcement for pregnant workers’ rights.

The final rule, set to be published in the Federal Register on April 19, 2024, and effective 60 days thereafter, offers clarity for both employees and employers. It includes examples of reasonable accommodations, guidance on limitations and medical conditions eligible for accommodation, encouragement for open communication between employers and workers, and clarification on when an accommodation may impose an undue hardship on the employer.

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This guidance is crucial not only for pregnant employees seeking to balance their health needs with work requirements but also for employers aiming to navigate their legal obligations under the new law. By fostering a workplace environment that accommodates the needs of pregnant workers, the EEOC’s final rule aims to reduce discrimination and ensure that women do not have to choose between their jobs and their pregnancies.

Moreover, the rule emphasizes the importance of early and frequent communication between employers and employees regarding accommodation requests, streamlining the process and helping to resolve issues in a timely manner. It also outlines circumstances under which employers may request supporting documentation for accommodations and details defenses or exemptions available to employers, including those based on religious grounds.

As the PWFA’s provisions take effect, they represent a significant step forward in securing equitable treatment for pregnant workers. This development reflects a growing recognition of the need for policies that support working families and promote gender equality in the labor force. With the implementation of the PWFA, the United States takes a critical step toward ensuring that pregnant workers are treated with the fairness and respect they deserve.

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