The EEOC Issues Final Regulations And Interpretive Guidance Regarding The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

CATEGORY: Nonprofit News, Private Education Matters, Public Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Nonprofit, Private Education, Public Education
DATE: Apr 25, 2024

On April 15, 2024, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued final regulations regarding the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA).  The EEOC’s new regulations and accompanying Appendix A (Interpretive Guidance) provide guidance on how the EEOC interprets and will enforce the PWFA.

The PWFA took effect June 27, 2023 (42 U.S.C. Sections 2000gg ‒ 2000gg-6) and applies to both public and private employers with 15 or more employees.  The PWFA requires covered employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees with “known limitations” that are “related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions,” unless provision of the accommodation would cause the employer an “undue hardship.”

The final regulations issued by the EEOC provide in-depth guidance to employers, over 400 pages, on critical aspects of the PWFA, including the following:

  • Individuals who are covered by the PWFA, including applicants and former employees.
  • What the terms “pregnancy” and “childbirth” mean as used in the PWFA as well as the medical conditions that are or may be covered by the PWFA as relating to pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Guidance concerning the fact-specific analysis required by employers in order to determine whether an employee’s medical condition is covered by the PWFA.
  • What it means for an employee’s limitation to be “known” to an employer and what is required in order for an employee to request an accommodation.
  • When and under what circumstances employers may seek additional information related to an employee’s request for accommodation.
  • What types of modifications or adjustments to an employee’s working conditions are considered reasonable accommodations, including a detailed, but non-exhaustive, list of examples and illustrations of reasonable accommodations in specific cases.
  • When a particular accommodation will be considered an undue hardship for an employer and the host of factors that are relevant to this fact-specific determination.
  • The purpose and requirements of the informal, interactive process that is required between the employer and the employee seeking accommodation under the PWFA.
  • Additional guidance on other employment practices other than discrimination that are unlawful under the PWFA.
  • Clarification on defenses available to employers, including those based on religion, and when an employer may assert such defenses in the EEOC’s charging process.
  • The relationship between the PWFA and other federal laws that provide protection for individuals affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, including, but not limited to, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), among others.

The final regulations were published in the Federal Register on April 19, 2024, and will go into effect 60 days after publication, or June 8, 2024.

California state law provides protections for employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, including under the Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) law and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), that, in certain circumstance, may be greater than the protections under the PWFA.  As such, it is important for employers to provide covered employees the most generous benefits and most stringent protections for which they qualify, whether under federal or state law.

Note: Liebert Cassidy Whitmore has attorneys who are familiar with the new PWFA regulations and can assist schools to modify existing policies or practices to ensure that they comply with the new legal regulatory obligations. 

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