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PWFA Regs Go into Effect Despite Legal Headwinds

A trio of lawsuits largely failed to derail the EEOC’s implementing regulations for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act before they became effective on June 18, 2024. Employers must be in full compliance with the PWFA and its EEOC regulations for all employees except those in Louisiana and Mississippi with respect to elective abortions.

Background: The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act became law in 2022 and the EEOC issued implementing regulations earlier this year. The law requires employers to provide pregnant workers (or those with pregnancy-related conditions) reasonable accommodations, similar to obligations for disabled employees under the ADA. The regulations spelled out precisely what those obligations are and included elective abortions as a covered condition – something that was not included in the text of the law. 

Lawsuits abound: A trio of lawsuits were filed against the EEOC seeking to block its regulations from taking effect. These suits were particularly focused on abortion as a covered condition, claiming its inclusion exceeded EEOC’s authority. The lawsuits were filed by the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, four religious organizations, and a coalition of state Republican attorneys general. 

The legal challenges largely failed to stop the regulations from going into effect. An Arkansas judge rejected the state Republican attorneys general out of hand, ruling that they lacked the standing to challenge the rule. Meanwhile, a Louisiana judge (ruling on a consolidation of the other lawsuits) upheld the majority of the rule while blocking the provisions requiring accommodation for elective abortions. 

In blocking that part of the regulation, the Louisiana judge ruled that the provision was outside of the EEOC’s authority and infringed upon state sovereignty. The court’s decision is limited solely to employees within the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, and even for those employees, the rest of the rules remain in effect. Further, the ruling is temporary – judgment on a permanent block will arrive sometime within the next few months.

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Authors: Gregory Hoff

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