Skip to Content

Employers Must Prepare To Accommodate New Protections For Pregnant Workers

pregnant worker

In December 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, a $1.7 trillion spending bill that includes funding for a wide range of foreign and domestic priorities.

Among the many provisions in the bill are two that employers need to be aware of: the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which increases workplace accommodations for pregnant employees, and the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, which requires covered employers to provide time and space for breastfeeding mothers.

Here are some basics to help you familiarize yourself with their requirements.

First, the PWFA, which is modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act, requires any employer with at least 15 employees to make “reasonable accommodations” for “known limitations” related to pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.

A limitation that an employer might need to accommodate under the PWFA does not need to qualify as a disability under the ADA.

Accommodations might include things like flexible work hours, modified seating, extra break/restroom/eating time, closer parking spaces, being excused from strenuous activities or exposure to materials that are unsafe during pregnancy.

Employers need not make accommodations under the PWFA that would impose an “undue hardship.” But like under the ADA, they must engage in an interactive process with the employee to figure out together the kinds of accommodations that might work best.

An employer that violates the PWFA may be ordered to pay lost wages, compensatory damages (to “make the employee whole” for the harm they suffered), punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

Meanwhile, the PUMP Act expands already existing protections that guarantee break time for breastfeeding employees to express milk in the workplace. Such protections previously applied primarily to wage workers. Now they apply to all employees except certain transportation workers and employees of small companies that would suffer “undue hardship” from the new law.

Employers should be aware that they cannot deny pump breaks to remote workers, and that they need to provide pumping space that is blocked from view of other employees, is available when needed, and is not a bathroom.

To ensure that your company is prepared to comply with these new laws, call an employment attorney in your area.