On April 15, 2024, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued its final rule and interpretive guidance implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The federal law, which went into effect June 27, 2023, and applies to employers with 15 or more employees, expands protections for qualified employees and applicants with regard to reasonable accommodations for “known limitations” related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. It was intended to aid in filling accommodations gaps left in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Among other things, the final rule—which was published on April 19, 2024, and will take effect 60 days later—provides:

  • That the phrase “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” must be read to include current pregnancy, past pregnancy, potential pregnancy, lactation, use of contraception, menstruation, infertility and fertility treatment, miscarriage, stillbirth, or having or choosing not to have an abortion;
  • That the physical or mental condition in question can be modest, minor or episodic, and there is no requirement that conditions rise to a specific severity threshold;
  • That an employer may request to obtain medical documentation for a qualifying condition in only limited circumstances outlined in the guidance, thereby rejecting the ADA’s approach to supporting documentation;
  • That employers are encouraged to respond expeditiously to employees’ requests and to consider granting an accommodation request on an interim basis even if additional information is still needed, given the temporary nature of pregnancy-related conditions;
  • That four specific accommodations (carrying/keeping water in or nearby the employee’s work area; taking additional restroom breaks; sitting instead of standing while working; taking breaks to eat or drink) be deemed de facto reasonable as not imposing an undue hardship in virtually all cases; and
  • That other reasonable accommodations to address known limitations under the law may include telework or remote work; job restructuring; reserved parking; and schedule changes, part-time work, and paid or unpaid leave.

Notably, of the more than 100,000 comments the agency received in response to the proposed rule, approximately 54,000 asked the EEOC to exclude abortion from its definition of related medical conditions.

Employers should familiarize themselves with the final regulations in order to better understand the requirements under the PWFA and ensure compliance in their policies and processes.

If you have any questions about the final regulations, please do not hesitate to contact Emily McDonough Souza at esouza@murthalaw.com or at 203.772.7711.