EEOC Mandates Abortion Accommodations Under Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The Biden administration mandates employers to provide reasonable accommodations, including time off for abortions, under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, sparking controversy but protecting pregnant workers' rights.

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EEOC Mandates Abortion Accommodations Under Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

EEOC Mandates Abortion Accommodations Under Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The Biden administration's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has finalized federal regulations requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, including time off for abortions and related medical conditions. The regulations, which will go into effect on June 18, 2024, provide guidance on implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) passed by Congress with bipartisan support in December 2022.

Under the new rules, most employers with 15 or more employees must grant accommodations for pregnancy-related limitations unless it causes undue hardship. These accommodations include time off and flexible breaks for childbirth, abortion, miscarriages, lactation, and other conditions. The EEOC clarified that abortion is considered a related medical condition covered by the PWFA, consistent with its longstanding interpretation of Title VII and court rulings.

Why this matters: The regulations provide important protections for pregnant workers, particularly women of color in low-wage, physically demanding jobs who often face denial of accommodations. The inclusion of abortion provisions has sparked controversy amid a climate of increasing abortion restrictions in many states.

The EEOC's decision to include abortion accommodations drew criticism from some conservative lawmakers and anti-abortion activists, who argue the agency is overstepping its authority. However, the EEOC defended its interpretation, stating that the PWFA is a workplace anti-discrimination law and does not require employers to pay for or provide abortions.

The regulations shift the burden to employers to prove undue hardship if they deny accommodation requests. Examples of reasonable accommodations include additional breaks, temporary reassignments, telework, and time off for medical appointments or recovery. The EEOC emphasized that these accommodations should be determined through an individualized process involving communication between the employer and employee.

Employees who believe their employer has violated the PWFA can file charges with the EEOC, with remedies including lost wages, emotional distress compensation, and attorney fee coverage. The law applies to public and private employers, unions, employment agencies, and the federal government.

Women's rights advocates have welcomed the regulations as an important step forward in protecting pregnant workers. "This is a rare common-sense victory for abortion rights in the current climate," said Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "Everyone should have the freedom to make their own decisions about pregnancy and parenting, including abortion, free from discrimination at work."

Key Takeaways

  • EEOC finalized regulations requiring employers to provide accommodations for pregnant workers, including time off for abortions.
  • Regulations apply to employers with 15+ employees, unless accommodations cause undue hardship.
  • Accommodations include time off and flexible breaks for childbirth, abortion, miscarriages, lactation, and other conditions.
  • Employees can file charges with EEOC if employers violate the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
  • Regulations aim to protect pregnant workers, especially women of color in low-wage, physically demanding jobs.