Two laws — the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act — took effect when President Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act just before Christmas.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act prohibits employment practices that discriminate against making reasonable accommodations for qualified employees (those who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation) affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
Specifically, it makes it illegal for an employer to:
- fail to make reasonable accommodations to known limitations of such employees unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on an entity's business operation;
- require a qualified employee affected by such condition to accept an accommodation other than any reasonable accommodation arrived at through an interactive process;
- deny employment opportunities based on the need of the entity to make such reasonable accommodations to a qualified employee;
- require such employees to take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided; or
- take adverse action in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment against a qualified employee requesting or using such reasonable accommodations.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to treat pregnant employees the same (no better and no worse) as other employees based on their ability or inability to work. In other words, the law already requires that employers provide the same accommodations for an expectant worker that you do for any un-pregnant employee unable to perform his or her regular job duties. Have you ever offered light duty to an employee returning from an injury? Have you ever reassigned job functions to assist an injured worker? Unless you are among the tiniest minority of employers that provides no accommodations for any employees' medical issues or injuries, the PDA already requires you to accommodate your employees' pregnancies.
Similarly, Title VII has always protected lactation discrimination as discrimination because of pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions. Unless there is some bizarro employer out there that does not permit employees to take short breaks during the day for any reason, any employer that punishes a woman for lactating already will be violating Title VII.