May 23, 2024


The Catholic University of America has signed on with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging a new federal government rule implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). 

The University supports the intent of the overall PWFA legislation, along with the bishops, to provide greater workplace flexibility for pregnant mothers. 

University President Peter Kilpatrick said the legislation initially “required employers to provide reasonable accommodations to expectant mothers such as paid time off, breaks, and modified work schedules.” However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) passed  a regulation:

  • that expands the reach of the PWFA to include abortion accommodations, contrary to assurances from policymakers;
  • that conflicts with the University’s Catholic mission;
  • and ignores more than 50,000 submitted public comments that oppose including abortion in PWFA implementing regulations.

Kilpatrick said the University has expanded paid family leave for faculty and staff, offered designated parking spaces for pregnant moms, increased access to baby changing tables and lactation spaces, and welcomed new life into Catholic University by offering families special gifts from the University.

“Through all of this, we have shown our commitment to supporting the mothers who are a crucial part of our community,” he said. “We will continue this work.” All of those efforts sprouted from the University’s Guadalupe Project, which was created to support expectant mothers on campus.

He added that the new rule creates the possibility of “substantial liability for employers who express and enforce life-affirming policies and practices in the workplace.” He also said religious protections had been watered down in the final rule.

“The Catholic University of America community remains steadfast in our commitments to upholding the sanctity of life and supporting women and pregnant mothers in the workplace,” President Kilpatrick said. “We firmly reject any suggestion of tension between those two core commitments.  We can – and we do – support women as they grow their families, and we believe it is possible to do so wholeheartedly while also supporting the dignity of life at all stages. Our mission to cultivate a culture of love, respect, and compassion demands nothing less.”

For media inquiries, please contact the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty