Ambiguity exists for employers, especially when existing accommodation policies may not address the needs of pregnant workers.

Background:

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act defines unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII to include discrimination “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.” Despite its enactment in 1978, litigation continues. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Young v. UPS, which observers hoped would clarify whether employers must provide pregnant employees workplace accommodations (water, more frequent restroom breaks or light duty) but left many questions unanswered.

Issue:

Ambiguity exists for employers, especially when existing accommodation policies may not address the needs of pregnant workers. Employers and employees need clear guidance in accommodating pregnancy in the workplace. This would enable pregnant women to have the maximum opportunity to remain engaged employees in the workplace.

Outlook:

Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced H.R. 2694, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). By a bipartisan vote of 29-17, the House Education and Labor Committee agreed to an amendment that provides technical changes favorable to employers.

The legislation currently has more than 225 bipartisan co-sponsors and is anticipated to receive consideration by the House of Representatives in the coming weeks. A companion bill has not been introduced in the Senate, but an overwhelming bipartisan vote of approval in the House could generate introduction and consideration in the Senate by year’s end.

SHRM Position:

SHRM believes an engaged workforce plays an integral role in fostering mutually beneficial work environments that serve both businesses and employees, and strongly supports H.R. 2694. The PWFA closely aligns with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), triggering a familiar, interactive process once an employee requests an accommodation to perform essential functions of her position. Importantly, leave may be provided as an accommodation only after the interactive process cannot identify a reasonable accommodation within the workplace. SHRM urges lawmakers to co-sponsor H.R. 2694.

Fact-Sheet:

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Fact-Sheet