EEOC Issues Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Regulations

May 8, 2024

By: Colin A. Walker

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which became law in June of 2023, requires employers with 15 or more employees to make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions unless the accommodations impose an undue hardship on the employer. This familiar standard has existed for many years for disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and many corresponding state disability laws. In recent years, many states have enacted laws requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy. For example, in Colorado, the legislature enacted C.R.S. 24-34-402.3 in 2016, which requires reasonable accommodations for pregnancy. In 2023, the United States Congress followed suit with the PWFA.

As with many laws, a governmental agency, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), was given rulemaking authority to issue regulations to flesh out the details of how the statute is to be interpreted, administered, and enforced. The EEOC recently issued regulations regarding the PWFA.

The following key provisions are noteworthy:

  • Examples of reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, including water and restroom breaks, leave for healthcare appointments, temporary modified duties, and telework. 
  • Guidance for conditions related to pregnancy which are covered by the PWFA, such as miscarriages, lactation, and morning sickness.
  • When employers may request documentation supporting a request for a reasonable accommodation (only when reasonable under the circumstances).
  • Explanation of when a reasonable accommodation imposes an undue hardship on an employer. 

In a controversial move, the EEOC included abortion as a pregnancy-related condition that must be reasonably accommodated. 

These regulations govern how the EEOC will handle investigations and enforcement actions under the PWFA. In addition, courts often look to regulations when interpreting laws such as the PWFA when disputes or agency enforcement actions are litigated. Therefore, employers and workers who seek reasonable accommodations under the PWFA should review them carefully when considering their rights and responsibilities under the PWFA.