How to Accommodate Pregnant Employees per the PWFA

If an employee comes to you requesting an accommodation for pregnancy, what types of accommodations would be considered reasonable?



In June of 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) went into effect, providing rights for employees who have limitations due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Per the law, all employers with 15+ employees are required to provide reasonable accommodations to eligible workers, absent undue hardship. 

What types of accommodations should pregnant or postpartum employees receive? 

Affected employees should talk to human resources (HR) or their manager and explain they have a physical or mental condition due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition that needs accommodating. Some accommodations will be easy to implement, while others may take more in-depth consideration to determine whether they create an undue hardship. 

Pregnancy accommodations that do not create a hardship 

There are several accommodations that will almost always be considered reasonable without creating an undue hardship to the employer. Pregnancy rights at work allow the affected workers to: 

  • Carry and drink water as needed 
  • Take additional restroom breaks 
  • Have closer parking spots 
  • Receive appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel 
  • Sit or stand where otherwise required 
  • Have short breaks to eat or drink as needed 
  • Be excused from strenuous activities or activities that involve exposure to unsafe compounds 

Per the Pregnancy Fairness Act, employers are prohibited from requiring affected employees to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided. 

Additional accommodations to be considered 

The following accommodations would remove a workplace barrier and provide equal opportunity to affected employees, but may need more thoughtful consideration:  

  • Creating schedule changes 
  • Offering part-time work 
  • Providing a desk that raises and lowers
  • Assigning to light duty or placing in a light duty program
  • Job restructuring, such as by removing a marginal function of the job
  • Temporarily suspending one or more essential functions
  • Granting paid or unpaid leave 

Affected workers have the right to discuss accommodation options with the employer. Keep in mind that an individual may need more than one type of accommodation at the same time or as a pregnancy progresses. 

Also, per the PWFA, workers cannot be retaliated against for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination. 

Why was the PWFA necessary? 

The PWFA allows pregnant and postpartum workers the option to continue working without having to choose between a paycheck or a healthy baby. This law was especially welcomed by employees working in a low-wage, inflexible, and/or a physically demanding job. 

What is the difference between the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the ADA? 

To be granted a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, you would need to have a condition that would be considered a disability. However, many women’s pregnant or postpartum conditions never rise to the level of a disability, as defined by the ADA. 

The PWFA covers this gap by requiring employers to provide a reasonable accommodation, even if the employee’s condition never meets the ADA definition of a disability. This allows the employee to protect their health and safely carry out a pregnancy while keeping their job. 

Similarities of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the ADA 

There is some overlap of terminology between the two laws. The terms “reasonable accommodation” (adjustment to a job or work environment) and “undue hardship” (significant difficulty or expense for the employer) are the same for the PWFA as those defined in the ADA. 

What is the difference between the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act? 

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, or PDA, is an extension of Title VII that prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. It requires employers to treat pregnant workers the same as other employees for all employment-related purposes. For example, failing to hire an otherwise qualified applicant who is pregnant is discrimination protected by the PDA. 

The PWFA, on the other hand, is a federal law that requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to workers who have limitations due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition. This is not something covered by the PDA.   

Where can I find additional support and resources? 

For help with your situation, please contact your certified HR expert. Not a current Stratus HR client? Book a free consultation and our team will contact you shortly. 

You can also find helpful information in these resources: 

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