How Does the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Affect Pregnancy Discrimination Laws?
In the decades since Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) in 1978, many women have benefitted from the protections and prohibitions on various types of employer misconduct in the workplace. Most Georgia companies know that it is illegal to treat a pregnant worker differently or take adverse action on account of pregnancy-related conditions. When they do encounter discriminatory acts, pregnant women have legal remedies through administrative action and/or a private lawsuit.
However, some issues have arisen in recent years regarding the PDA and implications for reasonable accommodations. Some employees are being wrongfully denied temporary modifications to job conditions, leading lawmakers to propose the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The bill is still in the earliest stages of the legislative process but, if enacted, it extends and clarifies protections for pregnant employees. A DeKalb County, GA employment discrimination attorney can explain the current state of the laws, and a summary may help you understand the general concepts.
Current Pregnancy Discrimination Laws Offer Limited Protection: In sum, the proposed bill aims to fill the gap where other discrimination laws do not offer sufficient protection for certain pregnant workers. Currently, the PDA makes it illegal to discriminate on account of pregnancy in various aspects of employment, including recruiting, hiring, termination, wages, promotions, benefits, and others. There is no requirement to provide an accommodation unless the employer extends the same rights and benefits to other similarly situated employees.
Likewise, there are limitations to the protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who suffer from a mental or physical impairment that limits a major life activity. Conditions related to pregnancy, such as diabetes and preeclampsia, are covered. However, pregnancy alone is not considered a disability under the ADA.
Overview of the PWFA: There are multiple provisions in the PWFA that address the issues that the ADA and PDA do not. The bill passed the House in September 2020 and is under review in the Senate. Like other federal workplace discrimination laws, it would only apply to Georgia companies that employ 15 or more workers; the PWFA would also not require employers to arrange an accommodation that would impose an undue hardship on the company’s business operations.
If enacted and signed by the president, the PWFA would:
- Make it illegal for a company to force a pregnant employee to take leave, if a reasonable accommodation would be suitable to address her personal needs
- Prohibit employers from requiring a worker to accept an accommodation without engaging in the interactive process to assess the details
- Clarify that an employer is prohibited from treating a pregnant worker differently because she needs a work-related modification or requests reasonable accommodation
The PWFA would provide pregnant women with many of the same remedies as existing laws, including filing an EEOC charge and/or pursuing a civil lawsuit. You may be able to recover for backpay, advance pay, and other monetary damages. It is also possible to seek equitable relief, such as hiring, reinstatement, or an order regarding reasonable accommodations.
Contact Our Georgia Employment Discrimination Lawyers Right Away
It could be quite some time before lawmakers take additional action to move the PWFA forward in the legislative process. Still, it is a relief to know that you do have legal options if your employer discriminates against you because you are pregnant. As mentioned, you might even have remedies under the ADA for a disabling medical condition related to pregnancy. To learn more about the relevant laws pertaining to pregnancy discrimination, please contact the Vaughn Law Firm in Decatur, GA. You can call 877.615.9495 or fill out an online form to set up a free consultation.