Judge denies 17 states’ request to halt pregnancy accommodation rule amid appeal

Dive Brief:

  • A federal judge rejected several states’ bid to block the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s pregnancy accommodation rule while they continue to challenge it in court.
  • “Because the States don’t have standing and haven’t shown likely irreparable harm, the Court does not find that the balance of equities or the public interest favors issuing an injunction pending the appeal,” U.S. District Judge D.P. Marshall ordered in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. 
  • Previously, the 17 state plaintiffs — Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, lead plaintiff Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia — alleged the final rule is arbitrary and capricious and in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

Dive Insight:

The regulations, which implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, have been met with resistance since first proposed. The law took effect in June 2023, and the final rule, issued in April, took effect June 18. 

Under the PWFA, employers with 15 or more employees are required to offer reasonable accommodations for workers with limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. At issue has been the EEOC’s inclusion of abortions in defining related medical conditions. 

Separately, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction for Louisiana, Mississippi and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on June 17 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana that temporarily excuses them from being held to the final rule. 

In those consolidated cases, Judge David C. Joseph said EEOC “exceeded its statutory authority to implement the PWFA” and encroached on the states’ sovereignty. The court, however, limited the injunction to cover only the plaintiffs in the case and did not extend it to the rest of the U.S.

Those states had argued the final rule’s inclusion of elective abortions challenges state laws restricting and limiting abortions, and the Catholic organizations said the final rule requires them to accommodate employers obtaining abortions, which is at odds with their religious beliefs, according to court documents.