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Pregnancy Protections



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Pregnant employees now have the right to accommodations under new federal regulations for enforcing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. These protections are likely to change workplace culture for millions of people, but no other working group is likely to be affected more than pregnant women working in low-wage jobs.


Below are a few things that employers and employees need to know about the new law and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations charged with enforcing it, cited from a recent report by Associated Press.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act


Congress passed the law with bipartisan support in December 2022 following a decade-long campaign by women’s rights and labor advocates, who argued that the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act did little to guarantee women would receive the accommodations they might need at work.

The 1978 law stated only that pregnant workers should be treated the same as other employees, not that they deserved special consideration. To get their requests met, many pregnant workers therefore needed to demonstrate they had physical limitations covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act.


The new law treats pregnancy and related conditions as deserving of “reasonable accommodations” and places the burden on employers to prove “undue hardships” for denying any requests. It applies to employers of at least 15 workers. The EEOC estimates it will cover roughly 1.5 million pregnant workers in any given year. The EEOC regulations go into effect in June.

What are workers entitled to?


The EEOC’s 400-page document encompasses a wide array of conditions, as well as advice for employers on what they need to provide. In general, the guidelines state that employers should:

Provide workers with unpaid time off for things such as prenatal appointments, miscarriages, post-partum depression, fertility treatments and other ailments that may arise due to pregnancy and/or giving birth.


Workers are allowed to ask for flexible working arrangements to handle unpleasant situations such as morning sickness. That might mean starting work later in the day for some, or when possible providing work from home options.

The regulations also say that pregnant workers can be exempt from high-risk tasks such as ladder climbing even if those duties are essential to their jobs.


It’s important to note that employers don’t have to accommodate workers exactly as requested but employers must now offer reasonable alternatives to their pregnant workers.

While the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act took effect on June 27, 2023, the EEOC regulations providing guidance on how to comply were only released on April 15, 2024. To view in full, visit:


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