The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: What Does That Mean For Employers?

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act:  What Does That Mean For Employers?

There are two new pregnancy-related federal laws, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, (“PWFA”) and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (“PUMP Act”), expanding federal protections for both pregnant and nursing mothers.  While some of the Acts’ provisions overlap with requirements of other federal and state laws, both Acts require nuances that place additional obligations on employers.

Effective June 29, 2023, the PWFA requires “covered employers” to provide “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant employees and applicants who have known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation will cause the employer an “undue hardship.”  Covered employers include private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees, however California’s state and local laws provide stricter pregnancy and lactation accommodations requirements, with five or more employees and the California laws do not allow for any undue hardship exception.

Essentially, the PWFA extends the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to pregnant employees.  The expressed purpose for passing the PWFA is to cover a gap left by the current federal law protecting pregnant and postpartum employees who need accommodations for physical or mental conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth.  What it does mean is that now violating employers risk not just a lawsuit in California state court, but also a Federal lawsuit.

The PUMP ACT, which became effective April 28, 2023, amended the federal Fair Labor Stands Act (“FLSA”) to require employers to pay employees for these breaks if the employer provides paid breaks to other employees.  The PUMP Act notes time spent expressing should be considered hours worked unless the employee is completely relieved of duties during the entire break.  If the employee is interrupted during the break, the employee must be paid for the entire break.

The Act creates a private right of action for employees who are denied breaks, not provided with a qualifying space for expressing, or not paid for the break as outlined in the Act.  Though the private right of action became effective April 28, 2023, remedies are back pay, front pay, liquidated damages, and attorney’s fees and cost.

As with the PWFA, California’s lactation accommodation laws contain more stringent provisions than the federal PUMP ACT requirements.  For example, the new law extends available time period for such accommodations to one year after the child’s birth, however California employers must allow employees a reasonable amount of time each time the employee has a need to express milk and has no such time limitation.

So, while California and many other states already provide for these protections, neither new federal act preempts more favorable state laws.  All employers are encouraged to review their current policies with legal counsel.

If you have any questions about your workplace policies or other employment law matters, here at Epps and Coulson, LLP we can help you navigate the best way to address any concerns and answer any questions you may have.  You may contact Dawn at:

Information contained in this Memo is intended for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.  It is likely considered advertising.  Epps & Coulson, LLP encourages you to call to discuss these matters as they apply to you or your business.

Attorneys admitted to practice in California, New York, Colorado, Texas, and Oregon