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Risk Management

New Law Provides Additional Protections for Pregnant Workers

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) was recently enacted to further cover the known limitations of pregnant employees. Here are some of the changes that employers may need to know about related to expanded accommodations under the PWFA.

September 11, 2023

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) applies to employers with 15 or more employees and expands the protections under both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The PWFA covers pregnant workers who are not legally disabled under the ADA and who may only require temporary accommodations to perform the essential functions of their jobs. This includes the known limitations of pregnant workers, any physical or mental condition related to, affected by or arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition that has been communicated to the employer. The act protects employees and applicants for employment without any waiting periods.

“Having a baby is an exciting time, but it can also be incredibly stressful for new parents,” said Sara Gibson, Senior Risk Control Manager at Safety National. “Accommodation needs can change throughout and after pregnancy, making it especially important for employers to communicate this new regulation to their employees. They should also encourage employees to work with their physician to determine when a condition needs to be reported.”

The act makes it unlawful for an employer to:

  • Avoid making reasonable accommodations unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship.
  • Require a qualified individual to accept an accommodation that was not arrived at through an interactive process with agreed-upon reasonable accommodations.
  • Deny employment opportunities to a qualified individual if the denial is based on the need of the employer to provide reasonable accommodations.
  • Require a qualified individual to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided.
  • Take adverse employment actions against a qualified individual for requesting or using a reasonable accommodation.

To address reasonable accommodations, employers may want to:

  • Communicate this new regulation to employees and encourage them to work with their physician to determine when to report their condition. The employee should bring written documentation from the physician stating:
    • Current known limitations on the employee related to the pregnancy
    • Suggestions for accommodations to address the limitations within a time frame
  • Work with the employee on their workplace needs and stress that their safety is essential. Pregnant women may try to overcompensate by doing as much or more than usual to show that they are still committed to their work and that they are still functioning members of the team.

Employers may find these safety tips helpful:

  • Employees should be aware that their balance may change and fatigue might be an issue, reducing attention that may lead to incidents. They may be more susceptible to musculoskeletal disorders, including back strains and carpel tunnel syndrome. Accommodations might include providing lifting aids like carts, additional rest or bathroom breaks, and time off for doctor appointments.
  • If the workplace involves working with radiation (dental offices, medical clinics, etc.), the allowed dose of radiation is much lower during pregnancy (must stay under 500 mg for the total pregnancy versus non-pregnant workers are allowed up to 5,000 mg for an entire year).
  • Chemicals in the workplace should be reviewed. The employee should discuss chemical exposures with their physician and communicate any recommendations made by the physician to the employer.

** The content and opinions expressed in this article are intended to be informational only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal, financial, or insurance advice.


For more expertise, guidance or resources on this topic, please contact [email protected].