Women's History Month and the PWFA! What is next?

by Lana L. Rupprecht, Esq. - AVP Product Compliance

March 21, 2024


It's March and that means it's Women's History Month. As you probably know, two important laws were recently enacted that impact women: the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act).

For background on each of these laws, check out our earlier blogs at the following links:

The PWFA and PUMP Act are part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, signed December 29, 2022. The PUMP Act became effective immediately, with certain enforcement provisions subsequently becoming effective on April 28, 2023. The PWFA became effective June 27, 2023.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published proposed regulations and related materials in support of the PWFA on August 11, 2023. While we (and most commentators) expected finalized regulations by the end of 2023, the EEOC had different plans and, for now, the proposed regulations are still pending.

But while we were waiting for the proposed regulations to become final, there's been a new and interesting development, involving - of course - a lawsuit challenging the enforceability of the PWFA.

The Lawsuit: State of Texas v. Merrick Garland 5:23-CV-034-H, February 27, 2024

The State of Texas challenged the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 (in its application to the State as an employer) on the basis that the House of Representatives lacked a quorum as required by Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution (the Quorum Clause). For background, the U.S. Constitution provides that a majority of the members of either House of Congress (a quorum) must be present in order to conduct business.

But, on May 15, 2020, during the COVID-pandemic, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution to authorize members to vote and be counted as part of the quorum by proxy. Therefore, when Congress voted on passing the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, an in-person quorum was not present; Congress relied on the proxy language contained in the resolution.

The State of Texas in February of 2023 filed a lawsuit challenging the Act and two parts of the Act: one of which included the PWFA.

The State of Texas argued that the PWFA created new legal rights and remedies for workers, regulated Texas as an employer, and waived its sovereign immunity. Specifically, the State of Texas argued that the State and its agencies must devote time and expenses to understanding new legal requirements, developing new policies and training, providing accommodations, and responding to EEOC charges and resulting litigation. The State of Texas argued that the Office of Attorney General "will incur around $6,674.01 throughout the first year of the PWFA and around $5,225.05 annually thereafter."

The Decision

First, and most significantly, a federal court in Texas found that Congress violated the Quorum Clause stating:

"Given the Constitution’s text, original public meaning, and historical practice, the Court concludes that the House cannot count members voting by proxy to constitute a constitutionally compliant quorum. The House’s adoption of a rule that counted absent members in the quorum and its passage of the Act without a physically present quorum… therefore violated the Quorum Clause."

Second, the court enjoined the EEOC and other federal agencies from enforcing the PWFA against the State of Texas.

The federal government is expected to appeal this decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and has until May of 2024 to do so.

What Does this Mean for Employers?

Presently, this decision is limited only to the State of Texas (i.e. Texas state government employees). It does NOT extend to or otherwise impact any private employers or any other governmental employers at this time.

Also, the court's decision does not impact any other civil rights laws, such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC will continue to accept charges for workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions who are claiming they had rights violated under the PWFA (if the violation occurred on or after June 27, 2023) and, where applicable, under the ADA or Title VII.

Employers should continue to comply with the provisions of the PWFA and continue to watch for the finalization of the proposed regulations!

Also, the decision has no impact at all on the PUMP Act.

Reliance Matrix is continuing to monitor this situation and will keep you updated. Stay tuned!

Reliance Matrix Can Help!

Through its insurance and administrative services entities, Reliance Matrix offers integrated leave management services including accommodation solutions and disability leave accommodations under the ADA. Product features and availability may vary by state. For more information, please contact your Reliance Matrix account manager.