NWLC Responds to a Federal Court Decision Limiting Protections of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act as it Pertains to Abortion

(Washington, D.C.)  A District Court Judge in Louisiana on June 17th issued a preliminary injunction against part of the final rule implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). Despite the generally accepted interpretation of the phrase “pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions” that appears in both PWFA and Title VII to include abortions, this Judge ruled that the EEOC exceeded their statutory authority when it included abortion in the list of pregnancy-related conditions that employers were required to accommodate.

However, this ruling does not touch the underlying protections of the PWFA itself. The law still provides pregnant workers with a right to reasonable accommodation. The preliminary injunction only concerns the part of the rule that explicitly covers abortion, and it only applies to workers in Louisiana and Mississippi and those working for U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic University, and the Dioceses of Lafayette and Lake Charles.

The following is a statement by Gaylynn Burroughs, Vice President for Education and Workplace Justice at the National Women’s Law Center:

“This is an infuriating decision. The court has left some pregnant workers who need abortion-related accommodations to fend for themselves despite federal law that has for years protected them from discrimination. What’s more, religion should never be used to harm people who need health care. But in the face of extreme decisions, we remain clear that abortion is pregnancy-related health care. The National Women’s Law Center has tenaciously fought to make sure that people who seek abortion care are protected from discrimination in the workplace, in education, and in healthcare. We led the decade-long fight to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act—and we will continue fighting for the rights of all pregnant workers to get the accommodations they need, including accommodations for abortion care.”