In a momentous stride towards gender equality and workers’ rights, the year 2022 saw the enactment of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. This landmark legislation places pregnant women’s rights at the forefront. It also aims to ensure fair treatment and accommodations for pregnant employees in the workplace. This article examines the provisions of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the entitlements it grants to expecting mothers.
Understanding the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
Legislators signed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act into law in 2022, marking a testament to the evolving landscape of workers’ rights in the United States. It acknowledges the unique challenges that pregnant women face in the workplace and aims to eliminate discrimination. It also promotes an environment where they can work without fear of jeopardizing their health or the health of their unborn child.
Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) has not accepted any official regulations, it started accepting complaints under the Act on June 27, 2023. Currently, the EEOC has proposed regulations that will specify what are considered reasonable accommodations. These regulations will go through a process before they are officially approved. In the meantime, the EEOC has published guidelines for employers and employees on what protections come with this new law. Below are a list of some of the protections pregnant employees can except to now receive.
One of the cornerstones of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is the requirement for employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers. This Act recognizes that pregnancy-related conditions might require adjustments to job responsibilities, hours, or working conditions. Employers must engage in a collaborative process with the pregnant employee to find suitable accommodations that do not pose an undue hardship on the business.
Protection Against Discrimination
The Act explicitly prohibits discrimination against pregnant workers. Employers cannot terminate, demote, or take any adverse action against an employee solely based on their pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions. This ensures that pregnant employees can continue their professional growth without fear of reprisals. If a pregnant employee feels they have faced discrimination, they can now file a discrimination charge with the EEOC, just like any other protected class.
Transparency and Education
Employers must inform employees of their rights under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. This includes communicating the policies, procedures, and available accommodations. By promoting transparency, the Act aims to empower pregnant workers with the knowledge they need to assert their rights confidently. To meet this goal, the EEOC has provided employers with informational signage that can be posted in conspicuous places where employees can see them.
Further, the Act safeguards pregnant workers from retaliation. In the past, retaliation against a pregnant woman could arguably be covered under gender as a protected class. However, this Act establishes pregnancy as a distinct protected class. Employers cannot retaliate against an employee if they assert their rights or requests reasonable accommodations. Actions such as reducing pay, demoting, or terminating the employee can now be considered retaliation. Pregnant employees can now advocate for their needs without fearing negative consequences.
Ensuring Equal Opportunity
With this enactment, pregnant workers are entitled to equal opportunities in all aspects of their employment from hiring and promotions to pay raises and benefits. This fosters an environment where pregnancy does not hinder career growth. Now women can continue to contribute their talents to the workforce while also starting a family.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2022 represents a significant stride forward in workplace equity and labor law. This legislative milestone firmly establishes the rights of pregnant employees to fair treatment, reasonable accommodations, and protection against discrimination. The law is still very new, but it reflects a promising direction for ensuring a more just and equitable working environment for all.
At Kaminsky Law, our attorneys are ready to provide expert legal guidance to navigate the intricacies of this legislation as it changes and develops. Our team of legal professionals is dedicated to assisting clients in achieving compliance with the Act’s provisions and advocating for the fair treatment of pregnant employees. If you believe you have been discriminated against, have other employment-related legal questions, or have questions about the Act check out our Employment Law practice area or contact us for a free consultation.