PWFA Final Regulations

Beth Dean 05.28.24
Graphic - Blog 2024-05-28 PWFA

What You Need to Know About PWFA

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released the final regulations for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). These regulations, taking effect on June 18, 2024, update the PWFA rules put into place in 2023 and significantly impact how employers with at least 15 employees accommodate workers with limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. 

As a reminder, PWFA temporarily provides pregnant employees and applicants the same protections available for disabled workers under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Here’s a breakdown of what employers need to know about the latest developments:

Key Changes and What They Mean for Employers

Broader Coverage of Pregnancy-Related Medical Conditions 

The final regulations expand the definition of “pregnancy-related medical conditions” to include abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, fertility treatments, and even menstruation. Employers must, therefore, consider requests for reasonable accommodations related to these conditions.

More Employees Considered “Qualified”

The PWFA defines a qualified employee as someone who can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation. The final regulations broaden this definition to potentially cover employees with temporary limitations caused by pregnancy. Employers may need to engage in the interactive process to determine reasonable accommodations for these employees, even if they currently cannot perform all essential job functions.

Temporary Suspension of Essential Functions as Accommodation 

The new rules allow employers to temporarily put a hold on certain essential functions to accommodate pregnant employees. Normally, employers have to find other ways for someone to do their job if they can’t handle everything due to a disability. However, with pregnancy limitations, employers can now consider temporarily suspending some essential tasks for employees who need adjustments because of their pregnancy. Employers will still need to consider whether this would cause undue hardship carefully.

Documentation Requests

Employers can request documentation to confirm a pregnancy-related limitation, but the EEOC emphasizes a reasonable approach. This means focusing specifically on the essential job functions and how the limitation affects the employee rather than requesting unnecessary medical details.

Undue Hardship Standard Clarified

The final rule clarifies factors for determining undue hardship caused by accommodation requests for pregnant workers. These factors include the duration of the accommodation, the availability of alternative work arrangements, and the nature of the essential job function. 

Potential Legal Challenges

While the effective date is set for June 18, 2024, legal challenges to the regulations are possible. Nextep will stay informed of any developments that might impact the timeline or specific provisions. Also, remember that PWFA does not necessarily supersede any state or local laws. In cases where multiple regulations apply, the employer must use the one most favorable to the employee.

Recommendations for Our PEO Clients

In light of these changes, we recommend that companies prepare for any accommodation requests:

  • Review and Update Policies:  Work with your HR Business Partner to revise your policies to reflect the broader definition of pregnancy-related limitations and accommodation requirements under the PWFA.
  • Training and Communication:  Provide training for HR personnel and managers on the PWFA’s intricacies, including the interactive process for handling accommodation requests.
  • Documentation System:  Develop a clear system for documenting accommodation requests and decisions while maintaining employee privacy.
  • Legal Guidance:  Consult with your employment lawyer to ensure your compliance strategy aligns with the final regulations, especially considering potential legal challenges.

For one-on-one guidance, contact your HR expert at Nextep. We’ll stay current on the regulations and keep you informed.

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