New federal law provides workplace accommodations to pregnant people
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act provides a range of arrangements for pregnancy-related conditions including morning sickness
A new federal law that requires employers to provide accommodations to pregnant and postpartum employees took effect on Tuesday, providing protections to millions of eligible people.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires that employers with more than 15 workers provide “reasonable accommodations” to people who are pregnant, postpartum or have a related medical condition, NBC News reported.
The legislation covers accommodations for a myriad of pregnancy-related conditions including morning sickness, pregnancy loss and postpartum depression.
Examples of possible accommodations include being able to sit and drink water, having flexible hours and having uniforms that fit properly, according to information from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Accommodations could also include time off for childbirth recovery and time to access an abortion, the 19th News reported.
Under the act, a pregnant employee can request accommodations from their employer, with both parties having a discussion on if the accommodation can be granted.
If such accommodations cannot be made, an employer can offer time off as a last resort, CNN reported. The employee can also report employers who fail to provide accommodations to the commission.
The commission will be required to provide guidelines on how employers should implement the new law and examples of reasonable accommodations by the end of the year, according to NBC.
About 2.8 million people could benefit from the new legislation each year, which amounts to approximately 70% of all pregnant women.
Dina Bakst, co-president of the labor advocate group A Better Balance, told the New York Times that the new law meant pregnant workers no longer had to choose between “maintaining a healthy pregnancy or a safe recovery from childbirth and a paycheck”.
Bakst called the legislation “a win for women, families and the economy”.
The law has been in the works for over a decade, having first been introduced in Congress in 2012, the Times reported.
It finally passed with bipartisan support in December 2022 as awareness grew about poor maternal outcomes in the US and the lack of support for pregnant workers, according to the Times.