Today is not just any old Wednesday. In fact, let’s rename it “Bipartisan Wednesday.” Or, “We All Stand for Pregnant Workers Wednesday.” Or, “The Day the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Gained a Republican Sponsor in the House (So There’s Really No Excuse Not to Pass It) Wednesday.”
What’s the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a landmark piece of legislation that would ensure that pregnant workers with medical needs receive reasonable accommodations at work. This is critical because even though women are the primary breadwinners in 41 percent of families with children, there are too few job security protections for pregnant workers who have complications arising out of pregnancy. Although many pregnant workers may never experience pregnancy-related complications, those who do are too often pushed out onto unpaid leave or are terminated—losing critical income and health insurance coverage—when a simple modification to their job would keep them working. No woman should have to choose between the health and safety of her pregnancy and her paycheck.
The PWFA borrows the legal framework employers are already familiar with from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In doing so, the bill requires employers to accommodate workers with limitations arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions that do not impose an undue burden on business. And in fact, many of the accommodations pregnant workers often need—like sitting on a stool during a long shift, carrying a bottle of water on the warehouse floor, or taking longer or more frequent breaks—come at little or no cost to the employer.
Why is Today So Significant?
The PWFA has been introduced in Congress twice before—in 2012 and 2013. Both times the bill failed, and both times the bill was only supported by Democrats.
Earlier just this month we applauded Republican Senators Ayotte and Heller for joining Democratic Senators Casey and Shaheen in introducing the PWFA with bipartisan support in the Senate. That alone was a historic moment for pregnant workers. And since then, Republican Senator Kirk has also joined his Republican colleagues in co-sponsoring this bill, as have 10 Democratic Senators and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders.
But let’s be honest- for anything to really get through this Congress, there needs to be bipartisan support in both chambers.
Today, that bipartisan dream has become a reality. Colorado Republican Representative Mike Coffman has become the first Republican to co-sponsor the PWFA in the House. As Rep. Coffman said, “Women should never worry about losing their job simply because they’re pregnant.” We could not agree more.