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Doug Kauffman, partner in the firm’s Birmingham office and member of the Labor and Employment Practice, interviewed with the American City Business Journals about what employers need to know about the new Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act).
The two measures, which expand workplace protections for pregnant women and new mothers, were included in the omnibus spending bill, signed by President Joe Biden on Dec. 29.
The American City Business Journals (ACBJ) quoted Doug in an article published January 13, 2023, in the series The Playbook, which is published on ACBJ’s websites in more than 40 metropolitan areas around the nation.
Doug explained the PWFA, which becomes effective June 27, 2023, provides the same accommodation obligations provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act to medical conditions associated with pregnancy and childbirth. He outlined steps employers should take now that the new law is in place.
“The first thing they need is take their existing disability processes and apply it to pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions,” Doug told the ACBJ. “They need to modify their written policies to inform employees on how to request accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions.”
Doug emphasized that “communications is key,” noting that training may be necessary for managers to know what to do when an employee mentions her pregnancy related conditions. There should be a system in place to trigger the processes to determine whether an accommodation can be provided, he said.
“Prior to the PWFA, the pregnancy discrimination act only prevented discrimination,” Doug said. “What’s new is there’s this new duty to accommodate. An accommodation is not about treating everybody the same, and it’s not about consistency, it’s about doing something special for somebody. It’s about modifying existing rules and existing requirements. There are limits to that. An employer doesn’t have to provide the accommodation if it would impose an undue hardship.”
The PUMP Act, which expanded protections for lactating mothers, outlines how employers are required to allow reasonable break time and a private place to pump breast milk.
“The main thing the PUMP Act does is takes existing protections for non-exempt employees and it applies it to your exempt employees as well,” Doug explained.
Doug emphasized the need for business owners to have a plan in place to follow the PUMP Act, as the legislation took effect immediately with the President’s signature, with changes to remedies taking effect April 28, 2023.