Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Quiz!

Happy Mother's Day weekend.

How much do you know about the new Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which will take effect only six short weeks from now? Take our Mother’s Day quiz and find out! You don’t have to be a mother (or even have a mother) to participate. As always, the answers will appear at the end of each question, so you can cheat all you want, and we’ll never know.

If you make it to the end, there will be a special gift, chosen especially for you.

Ready? Here we go!

No. 1: Title VII was amended in 1979 to prohibit pregnancy discrimination. So, what’s the point of this newfangled Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which will take effect on June 27?

A. The PWFA was enacted to reflect that transgender men can also be pregnant, something that no one thought about in 1979.

B. Title VII prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy but doesn’t clearly require reasonable accommodation of pregnancy. The PWFA expressly requires covered employers to accommodate employees’ temporary limitations resulting from pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions unless doing so would be an undue hardship.

C. There’s no point. Congress just needed to justify its existence. Our tax dollars at work.

ANSWER: B. Title VII was amended back in the days when employers often did blatantly (but legally) discriminate against employees for being pregnant – for example, by requiring them to quit, or failing to promote them, or paying them less. “Reasonable accommodation” was a fairly new concept. Since 1979, many states have enacted laws requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and related conditions, and with the PWFA, federal law is catching up.

No. 2: Why wouldn’t the Americans with Disabilities Act cover reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers?

A. Because pregnancy is not usually a “disability.”

B. Because pregnancy is a temporary condition, and the ADA covers conditions that are relatively long-term.

C. Because pregnancy is not a disease.

D. All of the above.

E. None of the above.

ANSWER: D. A normal, uneventful pregnancy is not a “disability” within the meaning of the ADA because it’s not an illness and because its limitations are very temporary in nature. So, yeah, the ADA isn’t much help when it comes to the majority of pregnancy accommodation situations.

(However . . . an employee who has complications of pregnancy, or who has long-term health issues resulting from childbirth, could be protected by the ADA. As of June 27, such an employee would be covered under both the ADA and the PWFA.)

No. 3: Elvira is six months pregnant, but she hasn’t told anyone at work yet. As far as they know, she’s just getting a little chubby. On June 28, 2023, she picks up a heavy box in the copy room and throws out her back, which requires her to take bed rest for the rest of her pregnancy. Elvira sues her employer under the PWFA for failing to reassign her lifting duties as a reasonable accommodation for her pregnancy. Does her lawsuit have a chance?

A. Yes, because she is pregnant, and her employer did not accommodate her. Case closed.

B. Yes, because a woman should never have to lift a heavy box by herself.

C. No, because her employer did not know she was pregnant and therefore had no reason to believe accommodations were needed.

D. No, because Elvira was an idiot for trying to lift a heavy box by herself when she was six months pregnant.

ANSWER: C. Under the PWFA, the employer is required to try to accommodate “known limitations” related to pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions. Elvira kept her pregnancy a secret, so she cannot sue her employer for violating the PWFA. Well, let me rephrase that. Anyone can sue anyone for anything, but Elvira should lose her PWFA lawsuit.

No. 4: Which of the following violate the PWFA?

A. Refusing to make a reasonable accommodation for a known limitation related to pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition when the accommodation would not be an undue hardship.

B. Requiring an employee to accept a reasonable accommodation that was not arrived at using the “interactive process.”

C. Taking adverse action against an employee because she sought a reasonable accommodation for pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition.

D. Patting the tummy of a pregnant employee without being asked and saying “Awwww . . ..”

E. Teasing a pregnant employee in her eighth month about how “huge” she’s become.

F. Asking a pregnant employee what her due date is and what she is going to name the baby.

G. All of the above.

H. A, B, and C.

ANSWER: H. Nonetheless, D and E can and will be used against you in a court of law, so if you're doing those things, stop it right now. F is probably all right, but even there, avoid following up with negative editorial comments. (“You’re going to name him Murgatroyd? He'll hate you the rest of his life.”)

No. 5: Mizirlou, who is pregnant, is a stellar candidate for the job. But the hiring manager offers the job to the distant second-place candidate Mediocra, who is in her mid-50s and has grown children. The hiring manager tells you confidentially that Mizirlou was vastly more qualified but that he chose Mediocra “because of that new law that requires us to make accommodations for pregnancy. I don’t want to get involved in that.” Is this

A. Legal

B. Illegal

ANSWER: B. The PWFA specifically provides that it is unlawful for an employer to fail to hire a qualified candidate so that it can avoid having to make pregnancy accommodations.

No. 6: Velveeta works at a fast food establishment and has to be on her feet most of the day. After she becomes pregnant, she brings a note from her doctor saying that she will need two 15-minute sit-down breaks per eight-hour shift. The store manager does not believe that the breaks can be accommodated, but she remembers reading somewhere that a leave of absence is a type of reasonable accommodation. And Velveeta is even eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act! So the manager has an “interactive process” meeting with Velveeta, tells her that the breaks cannot be accommodated, but gives her the good news that she can go out on unpaid FMLA leave for 12 weeks. Is this

A. Legal

B. Illegal

ANSWER: B. The PWFA also specifically says that an employer cannot require a pregnant employee to take a leave of absence as an accommodation if the employee can be accommodated on the job. Courts are unlikely to believe that an employer couldn't manage to give a pregnant employee two 15-minute sitting breaks per eight-hour shift. I’m having trouble believing it myself, and I made up this question.

No. 7: This quiz has been most informative! I can learn even more about the PWFA by reading a blog post that Robin wrote in January.

A. True

B. False

ANSWER: A. Check it out! 

*     *     *


6-7 correct: Way to go! You are Lois Griffin, apparently America's #1 favorite mom. (Go figure.)

4-5 correct: Very good! You’re Mommie Dearest, but in a good way!

2-3 correct: You’re Morticia Addams. A bit unsettling, but Pugsley and Wednesday will vouch for you.

0-1 correct: Eeeek! Mrs. Bates!

Just kidding! You all did great. And here is that special gift I promised you:

     Pssst. Right here.

Have a great Mother’s Day weekend, y’all!

Image Credit: Roses from flickr, Creative Commons license, by Ralph Daily. YouTube clip from Psycho (1960).

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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