How the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) enhances pregnant workers’ rights

Men and women work side by side in the workforce in many different businesses in Wisconsin. While male and female employees may contribute equally at work in all other ways, of course, women employees are the only ones who may become pregnant at some point during their working lives. Aside from all it means for the individual woman, an employee’s pregnancy can cause certain issues for the employer. It’s important for both employers and employees to remember that pregnant workers have specific protections under federal law.

Pregnant workers have certain needs and employers have a responsibility to be sensitive to those needs. They must make reasonable accommodations for a pregnant employee.

Thinking about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, or PWFA, requires covered employers to accommodate the limitations that the employee is experiencing because of the pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Another recent federal law, the Providing Urgent Protections for Nursing Mothers Act, or PUMP Act, gives added protections to employees who need to pump their breast milk at work.

These laws only relate to the accommodations themselves. There are other laws that have been in place for a long time that prohibit employers from firing or discriminating against workers because they are pregnant, have given birth recently or have some other related medical condition to the pregnancy and childbirth.

Who is protected by these laws?

The PWFA protects applicants of covered employers who have experienced a limitation because of pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. The term “covered employer” includes employers from both private and public sectors that employ a minimum of 15 employees, Congress, government agencies, labor organizations and employment agencies. The older laws were not adequate to protect pregnant employees. Those laws did not take into consideration the limitations that a pregnant woman faces on the job, which caused many dangerous situations.

What does ‘reasonable accommodations’ mean when it comes to pregnant workers?

That term means that changes will be made to the work environment or to the way that business is conducted to accommodate the pregnant employee. The following are some other examples:

  • The worker’s ability to sit and drink water
  • Park closer to the building
  • Have flexible work hours
  • Receive work uniforms and personal protective equipment that fit
  • Get extra breaks to use the restroom, eat and rest
  • Take time off after the birth to recover
  • Be excused from performing duties that may be unsafe for the unborn child

Are there things that a covered employer is not allowed to do?

There are some things that covered employers are not allowed to do legally. They cannot:

  • Force the employee to accept an accommodation without discussing it first
  • Deny a position or other job opportunity to the employee if they are qualified based on the fact that they need the extra accommodation
  • Insist that the employee take a leave of absence if a reasonable accommodation can be made that would allow the employee to do their job safely and successfully
  • Retaliate against the employee if they reported discrimination according to the PWFA

Enforcing the PWFA enhances the worker’s rights

The PWFA is a positive change and will make your life much better if you are pregnant and working. You need to protect your rights and the law goes a long way to doing that. All employees should be protected under the law and there are other laws that protect you in other ways so that your work environment is free from discrimination. The PWFA adds another dimension to supporting your rights and ensuring that your work experience is as positive as possible. Alan C. Olson & Associates helps workers to understand and assert their rights.


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