House passes bill protecting pregnant workers from employment discrimination
There is currently no federal law that explicitly and affirmatively guarantees all pregnant workers the right to basic accommodations – such as appropriate seating, water breaks, and relief from heavy lifting – so that they can continue working without jeopardizing their pregnancy.
The House this week voted 329-73 to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would prohibit discrimination against employees who are pregnant by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations to allow pregnant workers to continue in their roles.
“As a Navy veteran and a mother, I am proud to support this legislation so women who choose to grow their families are not penalized by their employers. This legislation will bring us one step closer to true equality for women,” said Congresswoman Elaine Luria (D-VA-02), a cosponsor of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694), which would address legal ambiguities associated with pregnancy discrimination.
The language in the bill closely models the Americans with Disabilities Act by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations to allow pregnant workers to continue working and prevent them from being removed from their jobs.
The bill would mandate an interactive process between employers and pregnant workers to determine reasonable accommodations, but provide an exemption for a business if an accommodation imposes an undue hardship on the employer.
In a recent survey of voters across the country, 89 percent said they support the proposal, including 81 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of independents, and 96 percent of Democrats.
“The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would, for the first time, explicitly require employers in the public and private sectors to provide reasonable and necessary accommodations to workers who are limited in doing their jobs due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions,” said Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees
“This bill would protect pregnant workers from being fired or forced to take unpaid leave when a reasonable accommodation is available,” Kelley said. “No worker should have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and a paycheck.”
Congressman A. Donald McEachin (D-VA-04) is also a cosponsor.
“Women should not be denied employment opportunities or forced out of jobs because of pregnancy, yet four decades after the Pregnancy Discrimination Act became law, pregnant workers in America continue to face unjust and unnecessary obstacles in the workplace,” McEachin said.
“The protections outlined in this bill are long overdue. As many Americans are grappling with dual economic and public health crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that we do more to protect pregnant workers and ensure their employers provide reasonable accommodations to keep them safe. I am pleased to have helped pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to ensure moms-to-be are treated fairly at work.”
Story by Chris Graham