Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Goes Into Effect!

pregnant workers fairness act goes into effect! text overlaying image of a pregnant women sitting at a work desk. Have you heard the news? After more than a decade of advocacy, The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act went into effect Tuesday, June 28, 2023. This is great news for millions of pregnant and postpartum workers. The law originally passed in December of 2022 and required special accommodations for pregnancy related medical conditions from pregnancy to after childbirth. This is a huge change to how things have previously been done in the workplace. Workers typically have had to prove they need accommodations with doctor’s notes. As well as prove that other workers had been given those accommodations previously. However, this new law means pregnant employees no longer have to prove anything. Being pregnant or having any need that stems from a pregnancy is proof enough. 


This change is all thanks to Dina Bakst, the co-founder and co-president of A Better Balance: The Work & Family Legal Center. This foundation is a national legal advocacy organization that works with laws to get justice for wronged employees. Their goal is to allow employees to continue to care for themselves and their families without having to jeopardize their financial stability. Essentially legally creating healthy work-life balances for employees.


Bakst started advocating for pregnant employee rights all the way back in 2012. It started when she noticed pregnant workers who came to her foundation for help were very rarely fully covered under the existing laws. She initially wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in 2012 calling for lawmakers to create a law that would allow pregnant workers to receive accommodations without having to cut through a bunch of red tape first. This op-ed eventually led to the movement that has been advocating for The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act ever since. 


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What Is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is exactly what the name suggests. It requires employers to treat pregnant employees fairly in the workplace. The act says that certain employers have to make “reasonable accommodations” for their employees who have health problems related to pregnancy or postpartum recovery. This includes making accommodations for:


  • Fertility treatments
  • Morning sickness (including hyperemesis, a very severe form of morning sickness and nausea)
  • Lactation
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Pregnancy loss
  • Postpartum depression
  • Mastitis, which is an infection of the breast tissue that usually happens when breastfeeding. 
  • Time off to recover after giving birth and 
  • Time off to get an abortion if you so choose. 

The main thing this law does to protect pregnant women is close a loophole in the long standing Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which already provides some protection for them at work. Previously under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers did not have to provide accommodations unless the employee could prove that another worker had also received it. This obviously had many flaws since pregnancy is different for everyone, so what one worker may have needed another may not need and vice versa. Now with The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, pregnant employees won’t have to prove they have a medical need for an accommodation as being pregnant, recently giving birth, or having an abortion is enough to receive it.

Examples of Accommodations

There are a wide range of accommodations pregnant employees can ask for if they have any need that stems from a pregnancy related issue. This can be anything including:


  • Extra breaks
  • Being able to sit while working
  • Allowed to eat at their desk
  • Letting them break the dress code to wear maternity clothes
  • Allowing them to keep a water bottle with them
  • Switching to light duty in a manual labor job
  • Working in a different job title with no physical labor

As for work schedule accommodations, this law allows them to receive more time off to attend doctor’s appointments, morning sickness days, or even allowing remote work if their job has the capability. The possibilities all rely on what their specific needs are rather than what other workers’ needs were in the past. 

How To Request an Accommodation

In order to request accommodations, all you have to do is communicate in writing with your employer that you need accommodations for a pregnancy related reason. To help you do this, A Better Balance has examples of letters you can use to request accommodations. You can say you need it because of The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, but you don’t have to specifically name the law. Simply informing your boss that you’re pregnant is enough to put a request in.


Though you will want to explain what the accommodation is, why you need it and for how long. For the law to apply you have to let your employer know that the accommodation or time off is specifically for something related to your pregnancy. Later this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will be releasing more information about whether or not an employer will be allowed to request proof such as a doctor’s note.

Who is Covered by The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?

We mentioned that “certain” employers are required to allow accommodations to employees during and after their pregnancies. So, let’s look at who’s covered with this new law. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), this law protects anyone working in the private sector for a company with 15 or more employees. This also includes congress, federal agencies, employment agencies, and labor organizations. Unfortunately, the law does not cover small businesses with less than 15 employees, which is the standard for other workplace discrimination laws.

How Much Time Can I Take to Recover from Childbirth?

Time off from work lasts as long as it takes you to recover. Typically, you have your first postpartum check-up about 6 weeks after delivery, while c-section recovery time may be even longer. The law lets you take unpaid time off for both types of recovery. During this time away from work, your job would be safe. So you can’t be fired for taking time to recover.


This is most helpful for anyone who can’t use The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to take time off. FMLA also allows unpaid time off to recover, but there are limitations. Such as the fact that employees need to be at their job for at least a year before they can use FMLA. With The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, it doesn’t matter how long you have been working at your company. If you need the time, you can take it with minimal questions asked.


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What The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Means for Employers

The EEOC, which is in charge of enforcing the new law, says that employers can’t force you to accept an accommodation or force you to take time off early if there is a reasonable accommodation that would allow you to continue working and earning an income. It also means employers are unable to refuse to hire someone due to them needing pregnancy related accommodation.


If an employer refuses an accommodation, they have to prove that it would cause an “undo hardship” on the company. An “undo hardship” means that the accommodation is too expensive or creates a severe problem for the company. Considering that these accommodations are temporary and usually consist of small things like extra breaks or drinking water where you’re typically not allowed to, it would be difficult for a company to meet the refusal criteria. 


The law states that employers have to go into an “interactive process” with you. This is just fancy wording for they need to work with you to help keep you working. While also taking care of your needs. This process is simple: it can take place on the phone, through email, or in person as it’s just a conversation. Your employer needs to respond in a reasonable time frame and actively try to work with you. This is where the burden to prove you need the accommodation is removed from you.


Before this law you would request an accommodation and your employer would then request that you provide proof that you need it. They could also ask that you prove the accommodation was previously given to another pregnant employee prior to your request. For example, if you asked to be allowed to sit while doing a job that normally requires you to stand. You would have to provide a medical document saying you cannot stand for a certain amount of time and need to be allowed to sit. And you would have to provide an example of another employee being allowed to sit due to a health issue.

If The Employer Doesn’t Comply

The first thing you need to know is any complaint made has to be something that happened on or after June 27,2023. You can file a complaint with the EEOC about the accommodation conflict with your employer. Advocates are currently requesting that the EEOC put these complaints first because they need to be dealt with quickly. By the end of this year, the agency will officially put out rules for the law. As well as the steps they will take to enforce it. It’s also important to note that if you file a complaint with the EEOC, your employer will be notified. Thankfully, you are protected against retaliation in this situation. Your employer legally can not retaliate against you for requesting an accommodation, filing complaints. Or even if you help with an investigation of someone else’s complaint.

How This Affects State and Local Laws

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is the minimum protection under federal law. This means that if your state or local laws have stronger protections in place to help pregnant workers then those laws trump the new law. So, state laws won’t be lessened just because the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is now in effect. There are currently more than 30 states who have these types of laws. So be sure to check with your state to see where this new law covers you.

Other Federal Laws That Protect Pregnant Workers

While this law is a massive win for millions of pregnant women across the country, there are already other laws also in place that you might not be aware. Other laws that affect pregnant workers, postpartum workers, or workers with pregnancy related medical conditions are:


  • Title VII – This protects employees from discrimination based on anything related to pregnancy, including pregnancy itself, childbirth, and medical conditions stemming from a pregnancy. It also requires employers to treat you the same as they would other workers who also need accommodations for other medical conditions.
  • The ADA – This protects employees from discrimination that is based on disabilities and requires accommodations for someone with a disability. While pregnancy itself is not a disability, certain medical conditions caused by pregnancy can count as a disability by law.
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 – This gives covered employees unpaid time for certain family or medical reasons. It also protects their job during the time off.
  • The PUMP Act – This law offers protection for employees who are breastfeeding. So that they are allowed to pump breast milk at work.

How EZ Can Help You

With all this baby talk we think we should remind you how important health insurance is, especially during pregnancy. If you’re currently pregnant, planning a pregnancy, recently delivered, or even if you’ve chosen not to have kids, it is best to have health insurance to protect any and all medical needs. With EZ we can save you hundreds of dollars a year on health insurance by quickly comparing all of your options. We make sure that your plan options all fit your specific needs and we do it all for free! To get your instant free quotes simply add your zip code into the box below. Or give one of our agents a call at 877-670-3557.

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About The Author:
Cassandra Love

With over a decade of helpful content experience Cassandra has dedicated her career to making sure people have access to relevant, easy to understand, and valuable information. After realizing a huge knowledge gap Cassandra spent years researching and working with health insurance companies to create accessible guides and articles to walk anyone through every aspect of the insurance process.

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