The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
On December 29th, 2022, Congress passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PFWA) as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. The law officially went into effect on June 27th, 2023. The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations advocated for this legislation, and we celebrate its passage. Thank you to all the Episcopal Public Policy Network members who advocated for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. We are also grateful to ecumenical, interfaith, and secular partners who helped champion this important legislation.
In 2018, the General Convention committed to advocating for equal access to healthcare for women and pregnant people in the workplace (2018-D032). The 2012 Executive Council Committee on the Status of Women stated, “By supporting programs and legislation that provide services to pregnant women and their children, the Church is addressing, domestically and abroad, the challenges and consequences of a failing global economy and is advocating for and working to provide health care and education for all of God’s beloved”. Altogether, we celebrate new life and work to support families through the challenges and joys pregnancy may bring.
Under the terms of the PWFA, employers with 15 or more workers must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related limitations identified by their employees unless they impose undue hardships on business operations. The PWFA requires accommodations for a “known limitation,” defined as a “physical or mental condition related to, affected by, or arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions that the employee or employee’s representative has communicated to the employer whether or not such condition meets the definition of disability.” It clarifies the requirements for pregnancy-related accommodations and legal frameworks created by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).
The goal of PWFA is to bring pregnant workers and their employers together to promote negotiations in good faith to determine appropriate accommodations. By leaving “reasonable accommodations” undefined, the Act can address the different circumstances of every job and pregnancy. Accommodations could be anything from the employer providing the employee with a chair to sit in, more breaks, or a schedule with flexible hours. In addition, the PWFA also directly addresses mandatory leave, prohibiting employers from forcing employees to take leave if another accommodation would permit them to do their jobs.
Overall, the PWFA significantly expands employers’ obligations to provide needed job modifications to pregnant employees. While it only applies to accommodation claims, the PWFA requires provisional job changes to workers’ essential duties, at least in some cases, provided those changes are temporary. If an employer does not properly address a requested accommodation, employees may now notify the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for violations of the law.
The United States remains one of the few developed countries that does not guarantee paid parental or pregnancy leave. While it does not engage all the issues related to gender and parental imbalances in the workforce, the PWFA addresses several factors that drove pregnant people out of the workforce at high rates during the pandemic. It is a win for all since the PWFA reduces factors that drive labor replacement rates and costs for businesses related to parental or pregnancy leave. The PWFA also helps employees and workers alike to challenge the stereotype that people are less committed and competent when it comes to their work after becoming pregnant.
We will continue to advocate on these issues, and we encourage you to join us through more Action Alerts in the 118th Congress and beyond.
“O Lord and giver of life, receive our prayer for N. and for the child they have conceived, that they may happily come to the time of birth, and serving you in all things may rejoice in your loving providence. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
The Office of Government Relations