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Understanding the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)

By Christina Santillo, SHRM-CP, Senior Human Resources Consultant

In the ever-evolving landscape of workplace rights and protections, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) stands as a significant legislative initiative in the United States. This new federal law took effect on June 27, 2023. Aimed at safeguarding the rights of pregnant employees, the PWFA addresses crucial aspects such as discrimination prevention and providing reasonable accommodations.

What is PWFA?

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) serves as a workplace protection for pregnant individuals. Enacted to bridge gaps between existing laws such as Title VII, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), and FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), the PWFA ensures that pregnant workers are not only shielded from discrimination but also entitled to reasonable accommodations. 


For employers, the PWFA brings forth several essential requirements that contribute to fostering a fair and inclusive workplace:

Reasonable Accommodations: One of the main provisions of the PWFA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees. This could involve adjustments to work duties, schedules, or other conditions to address the unique needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.  Pregnant employees will be entitled to a reasonable accommodation if they can show they have a limitation due to pregnancy, which can be an easy standard to meet.  The limitation can be temporary and the employee need only show the limitation will resolve at some point after their pregnancy, which in some cases can be two years thereafter.

Non-Discrimination Mandate: Employers cannot discriminate against employees based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The PWFA reinforces the importance of treating pregnant workers fairly and without bias.

Notification of Rights: Employers are obligated to inform employees of their rights under the PWFA. This transparency ensures that employees are aware of the protections afforded to them. This obligation can be met with a poster and a policy contained in the employee handbook.

Interactive Process: This law requires an interactive process between employers and employees when determining reasonable accommodations. This open communication ensures that the accommodation meets the specific needs of pregnant individuals.

Does this apply to your organization?

The PWFA applies to employers with 15 or more employees, emphasizing its reach across a significant portion of the workforce.

Which employees does the law apply to?

The PWFA applies to pregnant workers. The intent of the PWFA is to protect the jobs of pregnant workers and not force them out on a medical leave. 

What is considered reasonable accommodations?

Under the PWFA, reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to:

  • Breaks
  • Light duty
  • Job restrictions
  • Modifying work environment
  • Schedule changes
  • Remote work

What is the process once an employee asks for a reasonable accommodation?

Once a pregnant worker shows a job-related limitation due to pregnancy, there are a few rules to keep in mind. Employers can encourage, but cannot require, an employee to make their request in writing. Employers can require medical documentation to support the need for the accommodation except in the following four (4) circumstances:

  1. When the limited and need for accommodation is obvious
  2. When the employer already has sufficient information
  3. When the request is for one of the four “predictive Assessment” de facto reasonable accommodations
  4. When the request is for a lactation accommodation

When can a reasonable accommodation be denied?

Once a pregnant employee requests a reasonable accommodation, the employer must grant it unless it can show the request is an undue hardship on the organization.  Examples of an undue hardship are burden to find replacement, lost sales, client service is affected, low morale on other workers, and increased stress on overburdened co-workers.

Next Steps

Employers should seek to promote compliance with the PWFA by having a complaint policy and training on this subject.

If you are an employer with questions about compliance or human resources issues related to the PWFA, our Risk Management Division is here to help. Contact us at 855-873-0374 or email We are committed to assisting you in navigating the complexities of workplace regulations and ensuring a fair and inclusive environment for all employees.