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What is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”) was recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation largely follows the guidelines set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The PWFA, however, will go a step further in protecting pregnant women in the workplace if it is signed into law. It will also specify exactly what businesses must do to comply. Under the PWFA, anyone who is pregnant qualifies. The law is specific so that employers cannot avoid the issue of pregnancy. It ensures a pregnant worker is covered by the law even if they cannot perform an essential function of their job position, as long as the inability:

  • Is strictly temporary and caused by pregnancy;
  • Could be performed in the near future; and
  • Can be reasonably accommodated.

There is no language about undue hardship laid on the business. A business is not supposed to give preferential treatment to a pregnant woman, but it cannot tell her that her accommodations are unnecessary because they are more costly or time consuming than those provided to other disabled workers. The law simply hopes to clarify what employers must do when a woman requires accommodations during pregnancy alone.

Examples of Reasonable Accommodations Under the PWFA

The PWFA allows for reasonable accommodations that any normal person would see as fair. Some examples include the following:

  • Extra time for bathroom breaks
  • More water breaks
  • Reassignment of tasks requiring heavy lifting
  • A more comfortable chair in which to sit

Because most of these accommodations are simple, the employer and the employee must determine the best course of action. A business cannot reject requests for accommodations, and a pregnant woman cannot expect the business to know precisely what she needs without speaking to a supervisor first.

How are Workers Compensated Under the PWFA?

If a case for discrimination should arise under the PWFA, it would be met with an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Even though the EEOC will act as the administrative agency for the law, a lawsuit may be filed against the employer for negligence that could result in a judgment, including non-economic damages, punitive damages, and legal fees.

Pregnant women who experience retaliation or lose their jobs entirely could also sue for back pay if they were terminated, their hours were reduced, they were demoted, or their future earning potential was impacted. Even though women have legal recourse if they experienced discrimination, the law also allows employers to show that they made a good-faith effort to accommodate their employees. Although the law wants to protect pregnant women, it does not allow for unreasonable demands on the part of an employee.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Assist Pregnant Women Suffering from Discrimination at Work

Speak to the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. when you have questions about your treatment at work, especially when you are pregnant and have possible new protections under the PWFA. Our attorneys are highly experienced in all areas of the law dealing with employer-employee relationships. We create litigation strategies to support our clients’ concerns and goals. Fill out our online contact form or call us at 215-574-0600 today for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.