How the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act May Impact Your Small Business

A pregnant worker at her desk

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), a new law effective June 27, 2023, gives pregnant workers extra protections if they require accommodations to carry out their work duties.

It’s important to note that existing laws have protected the rights of pregnant workers for a long time. The PWFA simply spells out requirements for employers to make accommodations, if necessary, for the worker’s safety and comfort.

Employers’ Obligations Under the PWFA
The PWFA requires covered employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant workers unless they would cause an “undue hardship” on the employer’s operations. An “undue hardship” is a significant difficulty or expense for the employer.

The PWFA does not replace any other federal, state or local laws that are more protective of pregnant workers. More than 30 states and cities have laws that provide accommodations for pregnant workers, and employers must continue to follow the laws of their local jurisdictions.

Who May Require an Accommodation
Depending on the nature of their jobs, some women may need extra support while others don’t. Professional golfer Amy Olson recently made headlines when she competed in the U.S. Women’s Open in Pebble Beach while seven months pregnant. Other than requesting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the tournament, she reportedly modified her workouts and golf swing to accommodate her pregnancy so that she could compete.

Workers in more conventional situations may find extra support helpful, such as:

  • Receiving additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, drink water and rest
  • Being excused from strenuous activities such as lifting heavy objects
  • Limiting exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy
  • Receiving closer parking

If you have questions or need guidance on your workplace policies regarding pregnant workers, please do not hesitate to contact us.