Federal laws help to establish protections for workers in part so that they don’t have to experience unfair discrimination related to protected characteristics such as religion, race, medical condition or sex. For example, per federal law, women should theoretically receive the same treatment as their male coworkers and should have protection from discrimination related to medical conditions that only affect female workers, like pregnancy.
There are already certain federal workplace protections that can support women during pregnancy such as protection from medical discrimination that applies when a doctor limits someone’s work functions because of their health. New mothers may also have the right to take unpaid leave in certain circumstances after the birth of a child. Yet, despite those existing protections, expectant mothers still often experience discrimination in the workplace, which has inspired new federal legislation. As of June 2023, there is a new federal statute that expands the legal protection for pregnant women in the workplace.
What is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a new statute that ensures those expecting a child can count on reasonable accommodations from their employers. Working from home, changing their job responsibilities or having assisted technology are all possible examples of reasonable accommodations that employers can provide to pregnant workers to keep them working during their pregnancy.
When does the PWFA apply?
Not every employee working in the United States will benefit from the new protections of the PWFA. They will typically need to work for a company that has at least 15 employees. Additionally, the business will need to be able to accommodate them without experiencing undue hardship that could have financial or major operational consequences for the business.
Finally, women will typically need medical documentation from a licensed physician to validate the necessity of those accommodations. Provided that a woman works for a business that qualifies and needs certain accommodations to stay on the job before delivery, she should be able to count on her employer’s support instead of retaliation and discrimination.
Understanding the laws that protect women during their pregnancies can be of the utmost importance for those who want to keep their jobs and stand up for their rights in the workplace. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to gain this kind of clarity.