Some states grant employers temporary reprieve from parts of PWFA rule


Federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act challenge nixed for others

The day before final rule implementing the federal Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) went into effect, a federal judge in Louisiana granted employers in Louisiana and Mississippi a preliminary injunction, giving them temporary respite from complying with the rule.

Three days earlier, a federal judge in Arkansas dismissed a lawsuit that 17 states had filed challenging the same parts of the rule. The issue in both cases revolved around the PWFA requirement that employers must accommodate employees seeking elective abortions. Such accommodations often involve employee leave.

In February, a court allowed an injunction for the state of Texas, but not private employers in Texas.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that oversees the PWFA rule, may not currently enforce that part of the rule for those employers.

How we got here

Under the PWFA, employers must make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of a qualified employee, unless they can show that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on business operations.

As part of the law, Congress tasked the EEOC with issuing regulations to carry out the PWFA and directed that such regulations provide "examples of reasonable accommodations addressing known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions."

In the examples, the EEOC's final rule included situations involving elective abortions. With this, the Louisiana Court said, the EEOC exceeded its statutory authority to implement the PWFA. The court went on to say that some states have laws prohibiting abortions, so the PWFA accommodations would be prohibited by state law.

The EEOC has said that any situations where an accommodation request potentially conflicts with state laws would be examined on a case-by-case basis.

Key to remember: 

The PWFA final rule became effective for most employers on June 18; however, some parts of the rule are being challenged.

This article was written by Darlene M. Clabault, SHRM-CP, PHR, CLMS, of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. The content of these news items, in whole or in part, MAY NOT be copied into any other uses without consulting the originator of the content.


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