THE PREGNANT WORKERS FAIRNESS ACT (PWFA ACT) (PUMP ACT) – ALEX BLACKWELL
THE PREGNANT WORKERS FAIRNESS ACT – IS YOUR BUSINESS PREPARED?
By Alex Blackwell, Denton Law Firm, Paducah, Kentucky
Two recent pieces of legislation have created a new class of employees who qualify for reasonable accommodations on a federal law level. The Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Spending Bill was signed by President Biden on December 29, 2022. Inside the bill are the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act).
The PWFA extends coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act to pregnant workers. The PWFA requires certain employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualifying employees who have known limitations as a result of pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical problems outlined in the Act. These reasonable accommodations will be handled in a similar manner to accommodations are handled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). However, the PWFA will define “qualified employee” differently than the way the ADA defines it. The act handles pregnancy similarly to a disability, something many federal courts have not done in the past.
Generally, the PWFA applies to all federal agencies, labor organizations or employers who have more than 15 employees. The PWFA also requires employers to undergo the “interactive process” with employees to determine if a reasonable accommodation can be reached. Any alleged violations of the PWFA will be handled by the EEOC. The PWFA becomes effective June 27, 2023.
The PUMP Act contains differing applicability requirements than the PWFA but generally extends to all employees, regardless of exempt or non-exempt status. The PUMP Act extends protections that were provided to employees by the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and, in short, requires that employers provide employees with a break to express breast milk.
Many Kentucky employers likely are already complying with the new federal requirements of the PWFA and the PUMP Act. There are several nuances which may be construed in a different manner when viewed in light of the federal legislation. Similarly, there is no way to know how the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will handle these claims. It will be important to stay up to date on how the process plays out with the EEOC after these laws go into effect. Similarly, it will be important for employers to ensure that their managers and human resources staff are aware of the updates and know how to handle the applicable policy changes.
It will be important for employers to ensure that their policies are compliant with these new federal laws and make any necessary changes to ensure compliance.
If you have any questions regarding this issue, or any business law or personnel issues, and would like to further discuss these issues, please contact Alex Blackwell at 270-450-8253.