Democratic House members from New York and California are pushing a bill that would mandate special privileges to women who wish to remain in the workplace and maintain a healthy pregnancy.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and prevent employers from forcing women out on leave when another reasonable accommodation would allow them to continue working. The bill also bars employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
Introduced by Reps. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Susan Davis, D-Calif., the legilsation has garnered support from a number of labor and advocacy organizations, including the AFL-CIO, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the National Organization for Women Foundation.
“When American families are struggling to make ends meet, we must do everything we can to keep people in their jobs," Congressman Nadler said in a press statement. "This is especially true for pregnant women who are about to have another mouth to feed. Ensuring that a woman who needs minor and reasonable job adjustments to maintain a healthy pregnancy gets that accommodation should be central to our society’s support for strong and stable families. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is an essential means of clarifying our laws so that pregnant women and their families are not allowed to slip through the cracks.”
Pregnancy discrimination claims have increased 1 percent every year since 1997 (with a dip in 2005), according to the Connecticut Law Tribune. “Over the past 10 fiscal years, EEOC and state and local Fair Employment Practices agencies have received 53,865 charges alleging pregnancy discrimination . . . and obtained $150.5 million in monetary benefits for Charging Parties.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has laws in place to prevent pregnancy discrimination, including treating impairments as disabilities or provide modifications that enable a pregnant woman to do her job.
However, the lawmakers note, there are still instances in which employers are using pregnancy impairments as reason for termination:
"Heather Wiseman, a retail worker in Salina, Kansas, was fired because she needed to carry a water bottle to stay hydrated and prevent bladder infections; Victoria Serednyj, an activity director at a nursing home in Valparaiso, Indiana, was terminated because she required help with some physically strenuous aspects of her job to prevent having another miscarriage; and Peggy Young, a delivery truck driver in Landover, Maryland, was forced out on unpaid leave because she had a lifting restriction and was denied light duty."
“It is a shame and a blot on our nation’s commitment to equal opportunity that pregnancy discrimination claims continue to rise,” said Judith L. Lichtman, senior advisor at the National Partnership for Women & Families. “The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is balanced, reasonable and badly needed legislation that would help to stem this tide of discrimination, which has terrible costs for women and their families. We thank Representatives Nadler, Maloney, Speier, Davis and Miller for championing this bill, and call on all members of Congress to prioritize equality for pregnant workers.”