By: Lauren Khouri, FellowPosted on April 16, 2014 Issues: Pregnancy, Parenting & the Workplace

Add Central Falls, Rhode Island to the list of cities with strong protections for pregnant workers!

On Monday, Central Falls City Council voted 5-to-1 to pass the Gender Equity in the Workplace Ordinance, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees who have limitations in their ability to work arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Central Falls joins New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and West Virginia—all jurisdictions that have recently strengthened protections for pregnant workers, and done so with unanimous or near unanimous support. As a result, employers will be clearly required to provide pregnant workers with the same types of accommodations they already provide to workers with disabilities, and fewer women will be forced off the job at the moment they can least afford it.

While many women can work through pregnancy without any changes in their daily work, some women need small modifications in job policies or duties in order to continue working safely through their pregnancies. Yet, all too often when a pregnant woman requests a temporary change in workplace duties or policies, she is pushed out of work or forced onto unpaid leave by her employer. This leaves pregnant women across the country with a decision no one should have to make—a paycheck or a healthy pregnancy.

Rhode Islanders [PDF] are stepping up to ensure that pregnant workers can listen to their doctor’s advice while continuing to work—safely—and provide for their growing families. Just like in Central Falls, Providence City Council is considered an ordinance that would require employers to provide accommodations to pregnant workers. Legislation is also pending in both the state House and Senate, and is expected to be heard in the House and Senate Labor Committees this Thursday.

Rhode Island’s not alone. Many states have pregnancy accommodation legislation pending, as does Congress. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would make similar amendments to federal law, leveling the playing field for pregnant workers across the country. Introduced in both houses of Congress, the PWFA would make unmistakably clear that employers must provide reasonable accommodations when a worker needs them because of her pregnancy and would prohibit an employer from firing a pregnant worker or forcing her onto unpaid leave when a reasonable accommodation would allow her to continue working.

Kudos to Central Falls for supporting women in the workplace! Next up, hopefully Providence and the General Assembly adopt similar commonsense policies that keep women in the workforce—and encourage safe and healthy pregnancies.