WASHINGTON - HR professionals may have caught wind of Congress passing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in December 2022, but many still may be wondering: What’s the difference between the PWFA and the Americans with Disabilities Act? Or any fair treatment required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act?
At the Society for Human Resource Management’s Employment Law and Compliance Conference, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Vice Chair Jocelyn Samuels was diligent to emphasize that she was just sharing her perspective, not speaking on behalf of the other three EEOC commissioners. Still, she shared some key insights about the origins and application of the legislation.
She mainly outlined the ways the new law fills in gaps. Title VII accommodates pregnant people only if other people similarly situated receive that treatment, Samuels said. The ADA accommodates pregnant people only if a worker’s pregnancy conditions amount to a disability — leaving no room for individuals who have so-called “normal” pregnancies.
That’s where the PWFA comes in — although, Samuels said, the concepts of accommodation should feel familiar to HR professionals, having complied with the ADA, among other legislation.
Accommodations for pregnant people aren’t necessarily expensive, also leaving little room for the undue hardship component.
It can be as simple as ensuring a pregnant worker has a water bottle, Samuels said; that the pregnant person gets to sit down if their job normally involves standing, and vice versa.
Pregnancy accommodations can also mean providing proper uniforms that fit and allowing people to attend their necessary OBGYN appointments.
In addition to Samuels, here’s what other legal and workplace experts have to say about this new era of pregnancy and post-pregnancy accommodation ushered in by the PWFA, as well as the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers or “PUMP” Act.
Correction: A previous version of this story misnamed the Society for Human Resource Management.