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Don’t Be a Jerk on Mother’s Day: Support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Remember when you were a kid and you would say something really mean to your mom? And then Mother’s Day would roll around and you would write one of those “thanks for putting up with me” mea culpa cards? Yeah? Well I think about 125 million women are still waiting for our cards from these legislators:

  • South Dakota State Rep. Wayne Steinhauer, who stated that if an employer refuses to provide a pregnant worker a simple accommodation so she can continue working safely, “It’s not prison. [She] can quit!”
  • Congressman John Shimkus, who suggested that insurance plans shouldn’t cover prenatal care because it doesn’t benefit men—seemingly forgetting where he came from.
  • The 217 U.S. Representatives who voted for an ACA repeal bill that would be devastating to women’s access to quality, affordable health coverage, including for maternity care, C-section, and postpartum depression.

Here’s a tip for Members of Congress looking to start redeeming themselves this Mother’s Day—support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is being reintroduced today in Congress—just in time for Mother’s Day. The bill requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers who experience limitations in their ability to work due to pregnancy, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer—just like the ADA requires employers to do for disabilities. The PWFA has robust bipartisan support thanks to lead sponsors Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Mike Coffman (R-CO), and Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Dean Heller (R-NV) who have been working together to move this bill forward.

This bill is urgently needed because it’s 2017, and thousands of pregnant workers are still being pushed onto unpaid leave or off the job entirely when they ask for simple accommodations at work—like a bottle of water at their work station, or a stool to sit on at a cash register—so they can continue to work safely and provide for their families. Being unnecessarily forced onto unpaid leave or even fired can be absolutely devastating to a pregnant worker and her family, who lose income at the very moment their financial needs are growing. And the women who are most likely to need an accommodation, but most likely to be denied one, are workers in low-wage jobs who are least able to afford losing their income at this critical time.

The real kicker here is that employers are denying pregnant workers these accommodations EVEN THOUGH these employers provide them to other workers with similar limitations—like workers with disabilities or workers who have been injured on the job! But ooooh, if you can’t lift that box because of your pregnancy…hmm hmm hmm. Who do you think you are? We aren’t accommodating you.

Red and blue state legislators are increasingly working to put an end to this deeply unfair and deeply harmful practice by passing state equivalents of the PWFA. Since 2013, thirteen states have enacted pregnancy accommodation bills—all with bipartisan support AND, in the majority of cases, with unanimous or near unanimous support. From Nebraska to New York, West Virginia to Utah to Illinois, state legislators are recognizing these are common sense, common ground bills: Who doesn’t want a person to have a healthy pregnancy?! Who doesn’t want a pregnant worker to be able to continue to work at her job so her family doesn’t fall into poverty?! In the last month or so, Vermont signed into law a pregnancy accommodation bill, Washington passed a similar bill and it is awaiting signature by the Governor, and the South Carolina House passed such a bill with bipartisan support.

This momentum is amazing—but where you happen to live in the U.S. shouldn’t determine whether you receive the accommodation you might need to continue working through your pregnancy. That is why we need the federal Pregnant Worker Fairness Act.

A pregnant worker should not be forced to choose between her job and the health of her pregnancy. Don’t let inaction on the PWFA become yet another symptom of the newly invigorated assault on women and moms by federal legislators in the last few months.

This Mother’s Day, don’t give us a card, give us the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act.

It's time for change, and we must act now. Time's up.