NWLC Files Amicus Brief Defending PWFA Rules Against a Challenge from Louisiana and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, et al.

On June 10, 2024, the NWLC, ACLU, ACLU of Louisiana, and 18 additional workers’ rights and gender justice organizations – including labor unions and legal advocacy organizations – filed an amicus brief defending the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s regulations ( EEOC ) under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which clearly states that employers must reasonably accommodate employees to meet their pregnancy-related needs, including abortion care.

In this case, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic University of America, the Diocese of Lake Charles, and the Diocese of Lafayette sued the EEOC in an effort to block enforcement of the PWFA and the PWFA Final Rule with respect to abortion-related accommodations. They also ask the court, among other things, to declare that the EEOC’s interpretation and enforcement of the PWFA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are invalid under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment.

Congress enacted the PWFA to fill gaps in federal law protecting pregnant workers and to provide an express right to reasonable accommodations for workers affected by “pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions” – a term taken directly from the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA). . The EEOC regulations, which implement Congress’s intent in enacting the PWFA, recognize that abortion—which has long been covered by the PDA—is covered by the PWFA.

Our report shows that abortion is part of the full spectrum of pregnancy-related care and argues that if the court were to halt implementation of the EEOC regulations, it would defeat Congress’s intent to enforce the PWFA and harm workers. We also argue that the EEOC rule does not violate employers’ religious freedom because it expressly recognizes religious defenses that exist under applicable law. The PWFA does not limit the ability of religious employers to raise this defense in an individualized proceeding that takes into account the facts of each case.