On April 19, 2024, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) finalized its rule implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). Congress passed the PWFA to require employers to reasonably accommodate employees on the basis of “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”

The PWFA is meant to cover any private employer that is also covered by Title VII. The EEOC clarified in its final rule that the PWFA covers both applicants and employees.

Although the EEOC borrowed much of the language from its ADA implementing rule, the PWFA “accommodations” rule differs from the ADA in two important ways:

  1. The scope of an accommodation can be much wider than an ADA accommodation. A PWFA accommodation can include suspension of an employee’s “essential job function.” In contrast, the ADA generally does not require the modification of an employee’s essential job function(s). The PWFA rule also requires employers to provide unpaid leave, as an accommodation, for any “pregnancy-related issue.” Several attorneys general, led by Tennessee, are currently challenging this portion of the rule in court because EEOC’s definition of such issues includes pregnancy termination services.
  2. The duration of the accommodation can last much longer than an ADA accommodation. Under the ADA, for example, unpaid leave can become an undue burden on the employer the longer the leave period lasts. In contrast, the PWFA rule makes clear that the accommodation can last up to 40 weeks without being automatically considered an undue burden.

The PWFA final rule will become effective on June 18, 2024. Employers should take the opportunity to train management and update their employment manuals accordingly.