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Pregnant Workers Fairness Act UPDATE

The EEOC has issued final rules clarifying how the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”) is implemented. Those rules go into effect on June 18, 2024. These regulations clarify the availability of accommodations for limitations arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, and associated conditions.  

Employers don’t have to grant every accommodation request, just those accommodations that are “reasonable.” Without getting into a long discussion of how “reasonableness” is determined by legal decisionmakers, suffice it to say that accommodation requests often get watered down or negotiated out of existence.  These guidelines help set a baseline.

Predictable Assessments: The new rules are exciting because they propose four accommodations that are presumed reasonable—meaning that, if the employer wants to deny them, the employer has to prove that they aren’t reasonable. Those accommodations are: 1) keeping water nearby and breaks for drinking (for example, having a water bottle); 2) additional restroom breaks; 3) allowing standing, sitting, and alternating positions; and 4) allowing additional eating/drinking breaks. These accommodations are called “predictable assessments.”  

 

Limits on seeking additional documentation: Employers should not be seeking additional documentation in the following circumstances:  1) The need to adjust the workplace is obvious (for example, needing a larger uniform); 2) The employee has already provided sufficient information; 3) The employee is requesting one of the predictable assessments; 4) The employee requests time to pump or nurse; or 5) Non-pregnant or nursing employees would not be required to provide documentation for the same accommodation. 

 

New York Workers: Meanwhile, New York Pregnancy protections are gearing up. On June 19, 2024, New York employees will be entitled to a paid[1] 30-minute lactation break “each time such employee has reasonable need to express breast milk for up to three years following child birth.” While some employers are already wringing their hands about how often the need to pump might be “reasonable,” there is similar language in the FLSA (“a reasonable break time…each time such employee has need to express milk…”) 29 U.S.C. §218d (a)(1). Additionally, under New York’s Paid Prenatal Leave, on January 1, 2025, pregnant New York workers will be entitled to 20 hours of paid prenatal leave per calendar year, at the regular rate of pay, to be used to attend prenatal doctor’s appointments. This leave is in addition to New York statutory paid sick leave.  

 

Always contact a reputable workplace rights attorney to understand how new developments affect your rights! 

 

[1] This beats out the Federal PUMP Act, which only requires unpaid leave, unless the employee is not completely relieved from duty during the pump break.

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