Today, A Better Balance, the legal advocacy organization that launched and led the decade-long movement for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, issued a comment lauding the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for its regulations implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and offering extensive feedback on how the agency can further strengthen the rule.
A Better Balance’s 100-page comment provides a host of recommendations regarding ways the EEOC can provide further clarity for workers and employers as to how the law operates in practice. The comment is grounded in A Better Balance’s legal expertise and direct knowledge from hundreds of workers from 44 states (including Washington, DC), as to how the new law has been working.
“A Better Balance is immensely proud to already be helping pregnant and postpartum workers to exercise their rights under the groundbreaking Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and stay healthy and working when they need their income the most. But this game changing civil rights law will only truly work for workers in this country if there are strong regulations that make its vital protections fully available to those who are depending on them,” says A Better Balance Co-Founder and Co-President Dina Bakst. “We commend the EEOC for its proposed regulations that appropriately recognize the broad scope of the law, and hope to see finalized regulations that ensure workers with needs related to pregnancy, childbirth, or other related conditions are finally afforded long overdue fairness, dignity, and equality.”
Since the PWFA went into effect in June, A Better Balance’s free work-family legal helpline has been speaking with and directly supporting pregnant and postpartum workers in need of accommodations under the new law and is seeing firsthand the critical lifeline it provides. As we shared with the EEOC, one pregnant worker told us:
“When I received the call that my accommodation was approved I burst into tears. It felt like a load of bricks had been lifted off my chest. When I returned to work, I walked around with such pride and a high sense of dignity. I was finally able to enjoy my pregnancy and relax. I am able to contribute financially again, giving me my sense of self worth back. I no longer felt ostracized or incapable because I was pregnant.”
At the same time, we are also seeing that there remains confusion among employers about what is required of them and among employees about their rights. The EEOC’s final rule must provide important clarity for all parties and ensure the law can be enforced to its fullest effect.
As our comment explains, the initial proposed regulations from the EEOC appropriately recognize several key points of the law, including:
- The scope of the terms “known limitation” and “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions,” which have long been understood to include lactation, fertility, miscarriage, and abortion;
- That leave is a reasonable accommodation under the PWFA, including intermittent time off for prenatal and postnatal health care appointments, postpartum depression, and recovery from childbirth;
- The strong prohibitions on retaliation and interference, especially in the unlawful maintenance and application of “no fault” attendance policies
A Better Balance offered key suggestions for strengthening the final regulations, including:
- Urging the EEOC to add more types of accommodations that will rarely cause an undue hardship
- Urging the EEOC to add to the list of accommodations for which employers may not require medical documentation, such as modifying a uniform or allowing breaks to rest. It often takes weeks for workers to be able to get medical documentation and allowing employers to require it for certain basic accommodations should not be permitted.
A Better Balance also delivered comments from over 8,000 individuals to the EEOC in favor of strong regulations for the PWFA, led by A Better Balance Community Advocates Armanda Legros and Natasha Jackson, who played a key role in sharing their stories of pregnancy discrimination and advocating for the passage of the law.