Pregnant or Postpartum? Working? You Have Workplace Rights!

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a new federal law that became effective in June 2023. It requires all businesses with over 15 employees to provide reasonable accommodations for workers who are pregnant, nursing, or dealing with medical conditions related to pregnancy (including postpartum conditions), unless the business can prove such accommodations would cause them undue hardship. 


A reasonable accommodation is a change to work rules or the work environment that addresses limitations caused by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Some examples of “reasonable accommodations” include: assistance with lifting heavy items, uniforms that properly fit during pregnancy, closer parking, being excused from activities involving exposure to compounds unsafe for pregnancy or breastfeeding, time off for medical appointments related to the pregnancy, and time off to recover from childbirth or pregnancy loss. Four accommodations will be considered reasonable in almost all cases: access to food and water during work, additional bathroom breaks, providing a seat to standing workers, and breaks for eating/drinking.


Some examples of medical conditions that are related to pregnancy and childbirth that qualify for accommodations include: morning sickness, gestational diabetes, miscarriage, lactation, postpartum depression, as well as general conditions, such as hypertension, carpal tunnel, and sciatica, if they are caused or affected by pregnancy. Under federal regulations, abortion is also considered a related medical condition, although some employers may challenge that interpretation.


Accommodations are generally arrived at through a timely interactive process. An employee requiring accommodations must inform their employer in person, over email, by phone, or through other means that they require an accommodation related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. The employee and employer should then discuss potential accommodations. Employers cannot unilaterally dictate employee accommodations or require the employee to take leave if a different accommodation would meet her needs.


  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination against pregnant or lactating employees in the workplace or job candidates in the hiring process.

  • The PUMP Act, also enacted in 2022, provides lactating workers the right to “reasonable” break time and a sanitary space other than a bathroom for lactation, for up to one year after having a baby. This law applies to virtually all employers, regardless of size, but employers with fewer than 50 workers may be excused if they can prove compliance would impose an undue hardship.

  • Workplace protections for pregnant and postpartum workers extend to all workers, regardless of immigration status, but undocumented workers may face particular retaliation risks if they seek to enforce workplace rights. 



Community Resources: 

Legal Resources:

  • To request free and confidential legal help, we recommend calling A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB (1-833-633-3222) for assistance in English or Spanish. They also have legal resources online for those who feel unable to call: Get Help - A Better Balance (
  • To report a violation of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, call the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission at 1-800-669-4000. You can also find your nearest EEOC help center for in-person assistance at: It is illegal for an employer to fire an employee for filing a complaint. 
  • To report a violation of the PUMP Act: Call the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) at 1-800-487-9243 to be directed to your nearest WHD office for further assistance. It is illegal for an employer to fire an employee for filing a complaint.


I’m planning on becoming pregnant. Do I have to tell my boss or potential future employers?

No! It is illegal for potential employers to ask about current or future fertility plans, and you do not have to tell them. Current employers will have to know if you are pregnant in order to offer accommodations, however, this is a conversation you can have with them when you are feeling ready, and you do not have to disclose future fertility plans in any conversation with them. 

I have been pregnant for four months, but am just now needing accommodations. Is there a time limit that I missed to ask for accommodations in the workplace? 

There is no timeframe in which you have to request accommodations, as any adjustments are intended to be on an as-needed basis that are flexible enough to allow for any new needs that arise during pregnancy. For example, you may not need uniform-related accommodations until later in a pregnancy!

Do these rights apply to immigrants without documents or legal working status?

Yes. This labor right applies to all pregnant and postpartum workers, regardless of immigration status. It is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against individuals for requesting an accommodation or for reporting a workplace violation. There may, however, be risks associated with reporting an employer for a PWFA violation for individuals without documents, and we suggest consulting legal advice from a local immigration nonprofit to ensure safety and minimize risks. 

Can my employer say no to my accommodation request?

Yes, if they can prove “undue hardship” that the accommodation would cause them (for example: you are the only person trained to use an x-ray machine but request not to use it). Your employer cannot, however, retaliate against you for requesting an accommodation, even if they deny it. If you feel a request you’ve made is reasonable, you may wish to contact an attorney for advice.

If I am having my doctor write a note to support my accommodation request, is there anything to keep in mind?

Yes—you should talk with them to make sure that any doctor’s note is clear and specific in what accommodations you will need. Overly general notes risk your employer being limited in the accommodations they can reasonably offer without experiencing undue hardship. 

Do I have to talk to my employer in person to file an accommodation request?

No. You can initiate the process over the phone, on email, or via an alternative communication method used by your workplace. Having the request in writing may be helpful if there's ever a dispute about what was requested and the timeline of the request & response.

Can I report my employer for not offering me a workplace accommodation if I haven’t asked?

No. Employers are not responsible for offering workplace accommodations or initiating the interactive process to get such accommodations. Pregnant and postpartum employees must reach out to begin the process. 

Do I need a lawyer to request a PWFA workplace accommodation?

No. This process is designed to be completed by the employee and employer. However, a lawyer may be able to provide support if the interactive process does not yield a fair result.