The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was introduced in the Senate today.
When I tell people about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, they are often taken aback that there is a need for this legislation. I get it: it seems like common sense that employees should not be punished for needing medical accommodations like more frequent breaks to drink water, or a stool to sit on behind a cash register.
Yet, stories from across the country make clear that pregnant workers desperately need the protections offered by the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require that employers provide reasonable accommodations to employees for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical accommodations, just as they do now for employees with disabilities. Pregnant workers have been forced onto unpaid leave – or even fired – simply for asking for accommodations like a bathroom or water break. When pregnant workers have challenged these decisions in court, they have lost. This is because courts have held that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not explicitly require employers to provide accommodations for pregnant workers – a loophole the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would close.
Going without pay for months at a time is simply not an option for most pregnant workers. Pregnant workers in low-wage jobs are hit hardest: These workers are least likely to have flexibility at work and most likely to work in physically demanding jobs. For these women, the protections provided by the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act are critical to their ability to support their families while maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
The National Women’s Law Center’s analysis shows that five percent of women workers are pregnant in any given year. Providing simple accommodations like a stool to sit on or a bathroom break for these five percent is good for business, as it reduces employee turnover and increases employee satisfaction.
I feel lucky to work for an employer that provides accommodations to pregnant workers. But the ability to stay at your job while pregnant should not be based on luck, or where you are employed.