EEOC Issues Final Regulations to Implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

April 16 - Posted at 1:21 PM Tagged: , , , ,

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued final regulations and Interpretative Guidance to implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The PWFA went into effect on June 27, 2023. The PWFA requires that employers with at least 15 employees provide reasonable accommodations, absent undue hardship, to qualified employees and applicants with known limitations related to, affected by, or arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

The PWFA required the EEOC to publish final regulations by December 29, 2023. However, the EEOC did not issue final regulations until April 15, 2024.  The final regulations are slated to be published in the Federal Register on April 19, and will go into effect 60 days after publication.  The final regulations were issued after over 100,000 public comments were submitted in response to  the proposed regulations.

In the final regulations the EEOC clarifies, and in some instances, expands upon the circumstances in which an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee, absent undue hardship. The following is a list of some of the issues addressed in the 400+ pages of final regulations.

  • Like the proposed regulations, the final regulations cover a wide range of conditions related to pregnancy, including, fertility and infertility treatments, carpel tunnel, menstruation, postpartum depression, lactation (including both breastfeeding and pumping in the workplace), changes in hormone levels, abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, and preeclampsia.
  • The final regulations significantly maintained the list of reasonable accommodation requests that will almost never impose an undue hardship, including permitting employees to carry or keep water nearby, take breaks as needed to eat and drink, and permitting work to be done while sitting instead of standing or vice versa.
  • The final regulations clarify the definition of a “qualified individual” as one who can perform the essential functions in the near future.  In the case of a pregnant employee, the presumption is the employee can perform the essential functions “in the near future,” within 40 weeks of suspension of the job function.  For conditions other than current pregnancy, the regulations do not impose a 40-week limitation.  However, the final regulations clarify a request to indefinitely suspend an essential function is not “in the near future” so as to entitle an employee to an accommodation.
  • The final regulations further restrict the documentation and information an employer may require to support a request.
  • The final regulations state it is a best practice to provide an interim accommodation to an employee under the PWFA, and may mitigate against a claim of delay by an employee.
  • The final regulations also clarify there is no right to a reasonable accommodation under the PWFA based upon an individual’s association with someone else who may have a PWFA-covered limitation, or even if the individual themselves has a physical or mental limitation arising out of someone else’s pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition.
  • The final regulations clarify that time for bonding or for childcare is not covered by the PWFA.
  • The final regulations also include extensive Interpretative Guidance as an Appendix, which address the major provisions of the PWFA and explain and illustrate how the final regulations will apply.  

If you have any questions about the PWFA or the implications of the regulations for your organization please let us know.

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