Great news out of New York City today: a city-wide version of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has passed! This bill will protect those pregnant workers in NYC who need temporary modifications to continue safely working during pregnancy, like a reprieve from heavy lifting duties, permission to take more frequent water and bathroom breaks, or the ability to sit on a stool behind a cash register. These protections will be hugely important especially to low-wage workers, who are most likely to work physically demanding jobs, like in retail and in food service, and whose workplaces are likely to have little flexibility in their policies. It ensures that workers who need adjustments to the job because they are pregnant have the same right to accommodation as workers who need adjustments because of disability.
As mentioned in the New York Times article about the bill’s passage in NYC, it may seem puzzling that a new bill is necessary in light of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which will celebrate its 35th birthday this Halloween and requires employers to treat workers with limitations arising out of pregnancy as well as they treat workers with limitations arising out of disability. But time and again we have seen courts read the Pregnancy Discrimination Act narrowly, opening loopholes through which too many pregnant workers have fallen. The new law will make unmistakably clear the obligations of New York City employers to accommodate their pregnant employees.
Our coalition partners in New York, particularly A Better Balance, have worked tirelessly for this huge victory. While we celebrate for pregnant workers in NYC, we are all still hard at work to make the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act a reality for women across the nation. Workers in every corner of the country should have access to the accommodations they need to continue safely working and providing for their families during their pregnancies. Beyond being good for workers, this bill is overwhelmingly good for business as well. I hope that the success of the bill in NYC will clear the way for the passage of its federal counterpart.
This morning, we celebrate, and this afternoon, we organize.