The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which went into effect in June of 2023, lays out new requirements for employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless the accommodations would cause the employer undue hardship.
“Supporting women during pregnancy is an important part of recruiting more women into the trades and protecting their safety and health on the job,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman David F. Rampone. “It’s our goal to create a workplace that welcomes every single worker.”
The PWFA applies to both private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees. Under the PWFA, a “known limitation” includes both physical and mental conditions that a worker or workers’ representative (e.g., union steward) communicates to the employer.
On construction jobsites and other active, physical jobs where LIUNA members are often employed, examples of possible reasonable accommodations might include:
- Access to closer parking
- Additional breaks to use the bathroom, drink water, eat and rest
- Flexible work hours to accommodate prenatal appointments or morning sickness
- Transferring workers to light duty or a less physically demanding job
- Providing appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel
- Avoiding tasks that involve exposure to chemicals or other substances that are unsafe for pregnancy
Communicating with Workers to Find Accommodations
The PWFA is set up to encourage two-way communication between workers and employers. Employers are expected to listen to workers who are having a harder time performing their job due to pregnancy, childbirth or a related condition and work with them to address those concerns. This collaborative and interactive structure to resolve obstacles and reach accommodations is modeled on the same process employers already follow under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“Since this is just a temporary condition, it’s going to be extremely hard for an employer to say, ‘Oh, I couldn’t do that for a few weeks or a month or even a few months,’” said Elizabeth Gedmark from A Better Balance, an organization that advocates for policies and legislation that promote gender equality. “The assumption should really be: This is going to be workable.”
The PWFA also includes provisions that prevent employers from:
- Denying a job to someone based on their need for a reasonable accommodation
- Requiring an employee to take leave if a different accommodation would allow them to keep working
- Retaliating against employees who report or oppose discrimination that’s protected under PFWA rules
With these new protections, pregnant workers are now on stronger footing in the workplace and should feel empowered to ask for the support they need during their pregnancy and after childbirth. Finding ways to keep employees working safely during and after pregnancy helps keep workers on sound financial footing, ensures the continuation of their health benefits and maintains the productivity of employers too.
For additional information on the PWFA, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Q&A page on the PWFA.
The LHSFNA’s Women in Construction: Improving Workplace Safety and Health pamphlet includes more information on appropriate personal protective equipment and limiting exposure to chemicals that can harm women’s reproductive organs. Fund staff are also available to provide guidance to LIUNA District Councils, Local Unions and signatory contractors that have questions about the PWFA or supporting workers’ well-being on the job.