Bill requires private employers with 15 or more employees to provide a reasonable accommodation to pregnant workers, unless it creates an undue hardship
On September 17, 2020, in a vote of 329 to 73 the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act [H.R. 2694] was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation was originally introduced in the House several years ago; however, recently received endorsement by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on behalf of businesses.
Even though existing law The Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act appears to provide protection to pregnant workers, some courts have stated that to succeed a claim for pregnancy discrimination, the plaintiff needs to demonstrate that she was treated differently than other non-pregnant employees with similar limitations. If there are no comparable employees, there may not be a basis for claiming discriminatory treatment. Currently there are no federal laws that explicitly guarantee all pregnancy workers the right to a reasonable accommodation so that they can continue working without jeopardizing their pregnancy. Under existing law, pregnancy does not, per se, constitute a disability that triggers the need for an accommodation.
The current Bill would establish that:
- Private employers with 15 or more employees cannot refuse to make “reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of a qualified employee” unless it creates an undue hardship on the employer.
- Pregnant workers cannot be denied employment opportunities, retaliated against for requesting a reasonable accommodation, or forced to take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation is available.
- Workers denied a reasonable accommodation will have the same rights and remedies as those established under Title VII including lost pay, compensation damages, and reasonable attorney’s fees.