EEOC Starts Accepting Charges Under New Pregnant Workers Fairness Act 


Today, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) will take effect, expanding protections to ensure that workers experiencing pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions have the right to reasonable accommodations in the workplace. The law was signed by President Joe Biden last year, and as it goes into effect today. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will begin accepting charges of discrimination under this new statute for incidents that occurred on or after June 27, 2023. The PWFA applies only to accommodations. Existing laws that the EEOC enforces make it illegal to fire or otherwise discriminate against workers on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. 

What is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act? 

Building upon existing federal protections against pregnancy discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the  Pregnant Workers Fairness Act or PWFA requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to a worker’s known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation will cause the employer an undue hardship.  

To summarize this new Federal law, the PWFA states that it shall be an unlawful employment practice for a covered entity to— 

  • Not make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of a qualified employee, unless the business can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship; 
  • Require a qualified employee affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions to accept an accommodation other than any reasonable accommodation arrived at through the interactive process; 
  • Deny employment opportunities to a qualified employee if such denial is based on the need of the business to make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of the qualified employee; 
  • Require a qualified employee to take leave, whether paid or unpaid, if another reasonable accommodation can be provided to the known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of the qualified employee; or 
  • Take adverse action in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment against a qualified employee on account of the employee requesting or using a reasonable accommodation to the known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of the employee. 

The PWFA goes on to describe the costs, fees and damages that can be awarded in the event of a violation as well as to state an affirmative prohibition against retaliation and coercion.  

What employers are subject to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act? 

As this is a Federal law, the law applies to all United States based employers, regardless of the location of your state or workforce.  However, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is limited to employers with at least 15 employees. It’s important to also note that the PWFA does not replace federal, state, or local laws that are more protective of workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. 

What type of accommodations might be available under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act? 

The EEOC has not published a full list of the types of accommodations that will be required under the law. But some examples of reasonable accommodations that may be available to workers according to the EEOC are: 

  • Offering additional, longer, or more flexible breaks to eat, drink, rest, or use the restroom 
  • Changing a work schedule, such as having shorter hours, part-time work, or a later start time 
  • Changing food or drink policies to allow a worker to have a water bottle or food 
  • Providing leave for medical appointments or to recover from childbirth 

By the end of this year, the commission is required to publish guidance on how employers should implement the law, including a list of examples of reasonable accommodations, which the public will have a chance to weigh in on. 

What is the reasoning behind the new Pregnant Workers Fairness Act? 

According to a report by the National Partnership for Women and Families, this act could impact nearly 2.8 million workers. According to the EEOC, 72% of working women will become pregnant at some point while employed. 80% of first-time pregnant workers worked until their final month of pregnancy. 

“I am honored to lead the EEOC as we enforce a new civil rights law. For workers and job applicants, the PWFA will help ensure economic security at a critical time in their lives,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. “The EEOC stands ready to support employers as they carry out the PWFA’s directives and to support workers in receiving the accommodations they are entitled to under the PWFA.” 

How does the PWFA impact Illinois Employers? 

For businesses in Illinois, this law does not strike as significant a change as it might to businesses in states without a current accommodation law. In January 2015, P.A. 98-1050 amended the Illinois Human Rights Act to create additional protections for pregnant employees, including protections around accommodations.  For more information on the Illinois pregnancy accommodation act you can read our blog here or refrence the Illinois Department of Human Rights publication here.  

The Illinois Department of Human Rights does provide a list of what it considers to be reasonable accommodations modifications or adjustments to the job application process or work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position desired or held is customarily performed, that enable an applicant or employee affected by pregnancy to be considered for the position or to perform the essential functions of that position. Examples include: 

  • More frequent or longer bathroom breaks; 
  • Breaks for increased water intake; 
  • Breaks for periodic rests; 
  • Private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk and breastfeeding; 
  • Seating; 
  • Assistance with manual labor; 
  • Light duty; 
  • Temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position; 
  • The provision of an accessible worksite; 
  • Acquisition or modification of equipment; 
  • Job restructuring; 
  • A part-time or modified work schedule; 
  • Appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials, or policies; 
  • Reassignment to a vacant position; 
  • Time off to recover from pregnancy; and 
  • Leave necessitated by pregnancy 

Should you have any questions about how the PWFA impacts your business, are looking to develop pregnancy related polices or would like to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss other employment law needs, contact Navigant Law Group, LLC at (847) 253-8800 or contact us email us at 

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If you have any questions, or would like to schedule an initial consultation, please contact Navigant Law Group, LLC at (847) 253-8800 or email us at   

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