For many women, being pregnant on the job can be an invitation for discrimination. But a new federal law – the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) – requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Understanding Pregnancy Discrimination

Stories of employers’ adverse treatment of pregnant workers are frequent, like one employee subjected to such mistreatment who testified before Congress. Her employer put her on a 12-week Family and Medical Leave Act leave without pay after her doctor advised her to avoid lifting anything over 20 pounds, which is common medical advice for pregnant women. At the end of the leave, the woman told her manager she was ready to return to work but was informed she had to wait until the baby was born and could have her position if it was still available. The company sent a letter terminating her job two months after the birth.


In December 2022, President Biden signed an omnibus spending bill that included the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which went into effect on June 27, 2023. The law applies to private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees. 

Modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, the PWFA requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to allow pregnant workers to perform the essential functions of their job. According to an FAQ from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it is unlawful for an employer to:

  • Require an employee to accept an accommodation without discussing the accommodation between the worker and the employer.
  • Deny a job or other employment opportunity to a qualified employee or applicant based on the person’s need for a reasonable accommodation.
  • Require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided to let the employee keep working.
  • Retaliate against an individual for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination under the PWFA or participating in a PWFA proceeding (such as an investigation).
  • Interfere with any individual’s rights under the PWFA.

Employees who pursue PWFA violation actions may be entitled to the same damages available under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, including job reinstatement, back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and the right to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. 

Notably, the PWFA only applies to workplace and job accommodations. Other protections, such as the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, continue to shield employees from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. 

Contact an Experienced Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer Today

The attorneys in the Sommers Schwartz Employment Litigation Group have successfully fought for pregnant workers and others subjected to discrimination, harassment, termination, and retaliation. If your employer did not provide a legally required accommodation during your pregnancy, please contact us today for a free, confidential, and compassionate consultation about your rights.

Tad T. Roumayah

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Tad T. Roumayah

Tad Roumayah focuses his practice primarily on employment litigation, representing employees who have encountered discrimination, retaliation, wrongful discharge, whistleblower protection claims, wage and hour violations and other employment issues and disputes.