Pregnant workers may get longer breaks, more time off and other accommodations as new law takes effect

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which takes effect Tuesday, requires employers to make "reasonable accommodations" for pregnant and postpartum people.

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Millions of pregnant and postpartum workers across the country could be legally entitled to longer breaks, shorter hours and time off for medical appointments and recovery from childbirth beginning Tuesday, when the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act takes effect.

The new law mandates that employers with at least 15 employees provide "reasonable accommodations" to workers who need them due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is tasked with enforcing the law. However, employers will be able to opt out of providing accommodations to pregnant workers if they can show that doing so presents an “undue hardship” on their business operations.

While the EEOC has yet to publish a list of the types of accommodations that will be required under the law, examples could include more flexible hours, the option to sit in jobs that require long periods of standing, a parking spot closer to the workplace, access to uniforms and safety apparel that fit a pregnant person’s changing body, and excusal from heavy lifting or working around chemicals that could be dangerous during pregnancy, according to the EEOC.

By the end of this year, the commission is required to publish guidance on how employers should implement the law, including a list of examples of reasonable accommodations, which the public will have a chance to weigh in on.

President Biden signed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act into law in December, following a yearslong push to bring it to a vote in the Senate. Earlier versions of the bill passed in the House with bipartisan support in 2019 and 2021, but didn't pass in the Senate until it became part of the $1.7 trillion government funding bill.

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