Explained: The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Which Went Into Effect June 27)

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By Sam Cohen

June 27, 2023

Last December, President Joe Biden signed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act into law—and it goes into effect today, June 27. 

What it is:

Starting today, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a nationwide right. It requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant and postpartum workers and job applicants.

According to the White House’s official fact sheet, accommodations may include offering light duty on physical jobs, more frequent bathroom or water breaks, or a stool to sit on—“without discriminating or retaliating against” the worker.

Essentially, pregnant and postpartum workers are now legally entitled to these accommodations without having to go through the process of fighting for protection at work through the Pregnancy Discrimination Act or the Americans With Disabilities Act. They can also now legally request these accommodations without fear of retaliation or backlash. In addition to being able to make these requests, pregnant and postpartum workers are now also entitled to more flexibility in their schedules for doctor’s appointments. 

This comes on the heels of the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, which went into effect back in April. That act legally requires employers to provide space and time for lactation breaks for employees. Additional lactation needs are protected through the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act as well.

What it means for you:

If you’re pregnant or postpartum, you now have the legal right to request reasonable accommodations to ensure that you’re safe at work and aren’t overextending yourself. You may request remote work options if applicable at your job, or ask to be given light duty if you’re performing a physically demanding job. 

You’ll also be able to take more frequent breaks to use the bathroom, eat, and rest, and you can request a basic necessity like a stool so you can sit down while you work. You’ll have the right to request time off for prenatal appointments, and you’ll be protected from discrimination or retaliation from making these requests.

In essence, you’ll be able to more comfortably and safely perform your job while pregnant or postpartum without having to worry about whether you’ll be let go for making reasonable requests.

In Context:

Last December, President Joe Biden signed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act into law “as part of the bipartisan end-of-year omnibus law.” The idea was to provide protections for the millions of pregnant workers—and postpartum workers—throughout the country. 

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was originally introduced over 10 years ago as a Democratic bill. So, it’s taken an entire decade for the legislation to be signed into law. The Senate voted to add these protections 73-24.

  • Sam Cohen

    Sam is the Editorial Product Manager in the Community Department at COURIER Newsroom. Prior to joining the organization, Sam worked as a writer and editor covering topics ranging from literature, health & wellness, and astrology to the British royal family and profiles of notable actors and musicians.

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