The federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) makes it unlawful for an employer to refuse to make reasonable accommodations to a qualified employee’s known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless it would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.
A known limitation is a mental or physical condition related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions that the employee has communicated to the employer. It does not have to be a disability.
A qualified employee is an employee or applicant who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without accommodation. An employee or applicant is qualified even if unable to perform essential functions if the inability is temporary and can be reasonably accommodated.
“Reasonable accommodation” and “undue hardship” have the same meanings as under the Americans for Disability Act. Typically, an employer and employee will engage in an interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation, unless the appropriate accommodation can be provided without further conversation. Employers may not place employees on leave if the employees do not want to take leave and another reasonable accommodation can be provided.
The PWFA applies to private employers of 15 or more employees and almost all other employers that are subject to anti-discrimination laws. Damages and procedures are the same as for the nondiscrimination law that applies to the particular category of employee; attorney’s fees and costs are available; and employees must exhaust their administrative remedies as required by the anti-discrimination laws that apply to them (e.g., for employees of private employers, they must file a charge with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. No damages will be awarded, however, if the employer demonstrates good faith efforts, in consultation with the employee, to identify and make a reasonable accommodation that would give the employee an equally effective opportunity.
The PWFA does not limit Massachusetts or federal law that provides greater rights to a pregnant employee. The PWFA law goes into effect June 27, 2023.
Contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE consultation to discuss your rights.