A Word from Legal

Pregnancy and Accommodations: Your Rights

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) was enacted on June 27, 2023 requiring covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions so long as the accommodation will not cause an “undue hardship” on the employer (similar to the ADA, but specifically naming pregnant women). This act fills a gap in federal law to ensure pregnant workers receive accommodations. The earlier Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination, but does not explicitly guarantee accommodations.

Maryland law, on the other hand, has required that covered employers provide accommodations for limitations related to pregnancy since 2013. Therefore, the PWFA will have less of an impact on Maryland educators.* The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance of what constitutes a reasonable accommodation for pregnant employees will, however, impact implementation of the law in Maryland.

The EEOC guidance clarifies that workers with healthy pregnancies are also permitted to seek accommodations under the act, and there is no threshold in terms of the severity of physical and/or mental conditions for accommodation requests. Additionally, the act includes a broad definition of pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions including but not limited to lactation, miscarriage, and abortion. Accommodations, which are temporary, may include altering an employee’s job duties by excusing the employee from strenuous activities and/or exposure to compounds/diseases not safe for pregnancy by providing time off, closer parking, or additional breaks to use the bathroom, eat, and rest. Please be mindful that accommodations are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

If a member believes they have been denied a reasonable accommodation under the PWFA, UniServ directors should work with members and the employer informally to obtain appropriate accommodations. Members must be advised of their right to file charges with the EEOC under the act if relief is not provided.

*See Md. Code, State Gov’t §20-609

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