New protections for pregnant, nursing employees

Authored by Bukaty Companies on January 9, 2023

President Biden signed into law recently two new protections for pregnant employees that take effect this year.

The first measure is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which applies to employers with 15 or more employees. The PWFA extends protections to employees and applicants who have known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, even if the condition doesn’t meet the ADA definition as a “qualified employee.” The ADA doesn’t consider pregnancy a covered disability, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act doesn’t require a reasonable accommodation. The PWFA is meant to bridge the gaps in existing laws.

As with other ADA requests, employers must engage in the interactive process and offer a reasonable accommodation if it does not result in an undue hardship for the employer. Examples of an accommodation could be lighter duties or more breaks. Additionally, an employer may not force an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided. As with other federal protections, it is unlawful to retaliate against an employee or applicant requesting or using a reasonable accommodation.

Another related bill, Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP), is an extension of an existing requirement under the Fair Labor Standards Act requiring employers with 50 or more employees to provide reasonable break time and a secure area that isn’t a bathroom for non-exempt mothers to express breast milk up to one year after a child’s birth. PUMP extends protections to exempt (i.e., salaried) employees and includes anti-retaliation provisions.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for enforcement of PWFA and PUMP. The agency is expected to release regulations within one year to give additional guidance to employers. The PWFA takes effect June 27, 2023, and parts of the PUMP Act are effective immediately, with the full law going into effect on April 28, 2023.

For additional information, contact your Bukaty benefits consultant at 913.345.0440.

Blog Category: Health Care Reform, Compliance