Wednesday, April 17, 2024

EEOC makes is clear that the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act covers unpaid time off for abortions

From this point forward, if an employee needs an unpaid leave of absence to obtain and recover from an abortion, you better give it her. I realize this topic is divisive, but this issue is no longer subject to debate.

Earlier this week, the EEOC published its final regulations implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Pre-publication, agency considered 94,000 comments urging it either to exclude or include "abortion" from the Act's definition of "pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." The EEOC chose the latter. Here's why.

According to the EEOC, "The term 'abortion' is included in the regulation's definition of 'pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions' for the limited purpose of determining whether an employee qualifies for a workplace accommodation under the PWFA."

The agency added: "The PWFA is a workplace anti-discrimination law. It does not regulate the provision of abortion services or affect whether and under what circumstances an abortion should be permitted. The PWFA does not require any employee to have—or not to have—an abortion, does not require taxpayers to pay for any abortions, and does not compel health care providers to provide any abortions. The PWFA also cannot be used to require an employer-sponsored health plan to pay for or cover any particular item, procedure, or treatment, including an abortion. The PWFA does not require reasonable accommodations that would cause an employer to pay any travel-related expenses for an employee to obtain an abortion."

There's A LOT more to digest in the 408 pages of regulations, but given the ongoing and (d)evolving discourse around this one particular issue, it's worth calling it out for special attention.