Employers will be required to provide reasonable job accommodations, such as more frequent bathroom breaks or schedule changes, for any pregnant worker under new rules proposed this week by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which took effect in June, aims to close gaps in other federal job protection laws by stipulating that pregnant workers are entitled to certain accommodations provided those changes do not pose an “undue hardship” for their employers.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, pregnancy is not considered a disability, so pregnant workers could only seek accommodations in cases where they were unable to do their jobs. Now, under the EEOC rules to implement the PWFA, employers with 15 or more workers must grant reasonable accommodations whenever requested due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.
“Importantly, the PWFA allows workers with uncomplicated pregnancies to seek accommodations, recognizing that even uncomplicated pregnancies may create limitations for workers,” the EEOC document states.
Examples of reasonable accommodations contained in the 245-page rule proposal include: more frequent breaks; chairs or stools for employees whose shifts require them to be on their feet for long periods; schedule changes; part-time work; telework; reserved parking to reduce walking; light duty; modifying a workspace (such as providing a fan); giving an employee access to a restricted elevator; job restructuring or suspending an essential function (such as removing a requirement to climb ladders or lift heavy boxes while pregnant); and modifying uniforms or safety equipment, among other things.
The EEOC estimated it would cost private employers collectively $18 million to comply with the rule, but the estimated cost per establishment would be between $56.76 and $170.27.
Like the ADA, no employer is required by the PWFA to grant accommodations that cause an unreasonable hardship for the business by significantly disrupting operations or posing a safety risk to other employees, the EEOC said.
The EEOC draft regulations will be published in the Federal Register on Aug. 11, followed by a 60-day public comment period before adoption.
EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows called the PWFA an “important new civil rights law.”
“We encourage the public to provide meaningful feedback about how the proposal would impact workplaces and ways to assist employers and workers in understanding the law,” Burrows said.