Although it’s been 35 years since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was signed into law, pregnant women can still face a tough time in the workplace, particularly in occupations where being on your feet most of the day and/or lifting heavy objects are part of a regular day’s work. Although it met with little success last year, Senators Robert Casey (D.-Pa.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D.-N.H.) are reintroducing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in the Senate — just two days after Mother’s Day, not coincidentally — while several of their counterparts in the House are reintroducing it in that chamber as well.
More than three in five pregnant women in the United States (62 percent) are in the labor force, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families, which is actively promoting the legislation.
The PWFA would make it an unlawful employment practice for certain public and private employers to not make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of a job applicant or employee, unless a covered entity can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on its operations or business. It would also prohibit employers from requiring pregnant workers to take leave from their jobs if another reasonable accommodation is available that would allow them to continue working.
Proponents say the PWFA is necessary because, although existing laws prohibit organizations from discriminating against pregnant workers, the laws do not recognize pregnancy as a disability and do not compel employers to provide accommodations for expectant mothers. The new law would offer pregnant workers the same protection that other disabled employees — such as those who’ve injured their backs or suffered heart attacks — currently enjoy, supporters say.
PWFA advocates point to incidents in which pregnant workers have been denied bathroom breaks or compelled to take unpaid leave as examples of why the new law is needed.
“In a country that claims to value family and fairness, having a baby should not mean losing a job and jeopardizing family financial stability,” said NPWF president Debra L. Ness in a statement supporting the Act.