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EEOC Barred from Enforcing Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Against Texas

U.S. Capitol

A federal district court in Texas has ruled that Congress violated the Constitution when it passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). Congress lacked the required quorum, the court determined, holding that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is barred from enforcing the law against the state of Texas. The Feb. 27 order was stayed seven days to give the federal government the chance to appeal. We’ve gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other outlets.

Quorum Count Faulted

The court ruled that Congress violated the Constitution when it relied on the COVID-19-pandemic-era rule, adopted by the House of Representatives in 2020, that permitted members of Congress who weren’t present to be included in the quorum count and vote by proxy. The court said, “[B]y including members who were indisputably absent in the quorum count, the act at issue passed in violation of the Constitution’s quorum clause.”

The scope of the court’s order is narrow. The EEOC is barred from enforcing the PWFA only against the state of Texas. The order does not extend to any private employers or other governmental employers. However, others aren’t prevented from making the same argument.

(Jackson Lewis)

‘Novel’ Proxy Voting Rule

In its 120-page ruling, the court said that for over two centuries before the “novel” proxy voting rule’s adoption, Congress understood that the Constitution’s quorum clause required a majority of members of the House or Senate to be physically present to have quorum to pass legislation.

“Supreme Court precedent has long held that the Quorum Clause requires presence, and the clause’s text distinguishes those absent members from the quorum and provides a mechanism for obtaining a physical quorum by compelling absent members to attend,” the court stated.

(Reuters via NBC News)

Texas Attorney General’s Lawsuit

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration last year over a large government funding package that passed largely by proxy votes. The funding package, passed in December 2022, included the PWFA. The court’s ruling did not block the entire spending law.

(The Texas Tribune and Pennsylvania Capital-Star)

PWFA Requirements

The PWFA, which SHRM urged Congress to pass, requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. The PWFA applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Employers don’t have to provide an accommodation that would result in an undue hardship for them. The PWFA’s accommodation provisions are based on the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA’s) but under the PWFA, an employer may temporarily have to eliminate an essential job function. That’s not the case under the ADA.

(SHRM Online, Ogletree Deakins and SHRM Online)


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