Judge Blocks Enforcement of Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act in Cases Involving Texas State Employees

Congress passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2023 (PWFA) to provide basic accommodations to employees who are expecting. However, a question about the procedure used to pass the law has led a Texas federal judge to block its enforcement against the State of Texas. Depending on the eventual legal outcome, new legislation might need to be introduced to ensure that pregnant state employees have what they need to complete their job duties while they await the birth of their child.

Responding to a lawsuit from the state, Judge James Wesley Hendrix issued a decision saying that the PWFA was not validly passed by the House of Representatives because the number of proxy voters meant that a quorum did not exist in the legislative body during the PWFA vote. There were 205 House members present for the vote, with 226 voting by proxy. If the members of Congress who registered their choice remotely are not counted, the number present would fall short of the 218 required at the time for a quorum. Accordingly, Hendrix enjoined the federal government from enforcing the PFWA against the State of Texas in its role as an employer. However, private employers and other states must still abide by PWFA provisions.

The legislation supplements existing laws protecting pregnant employees in the following ways:

  • Reasonable accommodations — Specific accommodations mandated under the PWFA include permitting an employee to drink water in their workspace, allowing pregnant workers to sit down or stand up as need and allowing additional restroom and snack breaks.

  • Temporary relief from job duties — While the Americans with Disabilities Act does not relieve a disabled worker from performing the essential functions of their job, the PWFA states that a pregnant woman might be allowed to temporarily stop a job duty that can be completed in the near future. 

  • Collaboration on workplace adjustments — The PWFA compels employers to engage in an interactive process with pregnant employees to determine appropriate accommodations. This leads to a higher likelihood of finding solutions that meet the employee's needs while considering the employer's operational requirements.

Moreover, employers are required to provide notice to employees about the provisions of the PWFA and are prohibited from retaliating against women who seek to enforce their rights under the law.  

While the question of how the PWFA applies to Texas state employees is adjudicated in the courts, pregnant women who work elsewhere should be highly aware of what the law requires. If you’re concerned about mistreatment due to the fact that you’re expecting a child, Kardell Law Group can advise you of your rights and take prompt action if warranted by the circumstances.