Posted on May 14, 2013 Issues: Pregnancy, Parenting & the Workplace Workplace

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is expected to be re-introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.  Sponsored by Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Susan Davis (D-CA), and Marcia Fudge (D-OH), this bill would require employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees who have limitations stemming from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.  This means that an employer might be required to modify a no-food-or-drink policy, provide a stool, temporarily reassign heavy lifting duties to other employees or give an available light-duty position to pregnant employees in order to accommodate pregnancy-related limitations.  Despite the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, employers routinely deny requests for temporary work adjustments by pregnant workers —leaving many without a salary and health insurance because they are fired, forced to quit, or pushed onto unpaid leave.

The following is a statement by National Women’s Law Center Vice President and General Counsel Emily Martin:

“Women make up almost half of the workforce, but all too often they face an impossible choice:  risk their own health and pregnancy to keep a job or be fired or forced onto unpaid leave.   The stories of pregnant women who are denied small adjustments in the workplace defy logic.  A retail worker in Kansas was fired because she carried a water bottle to stay hydrated.  An activity director at an Indiana nursing home was terminated because she needed to avoid moving heavy objects to prevent having another miscarriage.  A truck driver in Maryland was forced onto unpaid leave and lost her health insurance when she needed help with occasional heavy lifting.  If these women had needed reasonable accommodations because of a disability other than pregnancy, their employers likely would have provided them. 

“The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would end this inequity and require employers to extend to their pregnant employees the same commonsense adjustments they already provide workers with disabilities.  If employers make these reasonable accommodations, pregnant workers could work longer under safer conditions and continue to provide for their families.  And employers would benefit by retaining their trained workforce and avoiding the costs of employee turnover.  It’s time for Congress to support this win-win proposition for working women and businesses.”