Today, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) joined Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) to reintroduce legislation that would protect pregnant workers from workplace discrimination.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would address legal ambiguities and help ensure that pregnant women are treated fairly on the job. The legislation, which is closely modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), would require employers to make reasonable accommodations—such as a minor job modification—that would allow pregnant workers to continue working and prevent them from being forced out on leave or out of their jobs. The bill also prohibits employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
“Women should not live in fear of losing their jobs or being forced on leave because they are pregnant,” said Senator Casey. “This legislation will ensure women are offered real protection in the fight against pregnancy discrimination.”
“No expectant mother should have to choose between giving up her job or jeopardizing the health of her pregnancy,” said Senator Shaheen. “Congress must work together to safeguard the important role of women in our workforce and prevent employer discrimination. This bipartisan legislation will ensure that pregnant workers are afforded reasonable on-the-job accommodations and protected from unfair retaliation.”
“As a father of two daughters, I believe employers should provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers – not penalize them for being pregnant. Women are an integral part of our workforce, and this legislation recognizes that women’s medical needs must be addressed without imposing an unnecessary burden on employers,” said Senator Heller.
“No woman should have to choose between a health pregnancy and a paycheck,” said Congressman Nadler. “Often a simple fix – a bottle of water during a shift, an extra bathroom break, a chair – will allow women to stay on the job and support their families throughout their pregnancy. The PWFA creates an affirmative duty to accommodate pregnant women unless the accommodation imposes an undue hardship on the employer. We know exactly what this language means, employers know just what to expect, and, most importantly, pregnant women know they will be protected. As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, it is imperative that we give all moms and moms-to-be the security to know they can stay on the job no matter what.”
“Women should never worry about losing their job simply because they’re pregnant,” said Congressman Coffman. “This bipartisan effort strengthens our society and ensures women are never forced to decide between their child and their job. As we strengthen the workforce of the 21st century, so too we should strengthen protections for working mothers.”
Emily Martin, NWLC General Counsel and Vice President for Workplace Justice: “Women make up almost half the workforce, but all too often they’re forced to make an impossible choice: risk their own health and pregnancy to keep a job, or lose their income at the moment they can least afford it. Pregnant workers are ready, willing and able to work but they are often pushed out by employers who refuse to make even minor temporary changes to their jobs to accommodate pregnant workers’ medical needs. We applaud today’s bipartisan action and urge Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act – because no woman should have to choose between her job and her pregnancy.”
Sixty-two percent of pregnant women and new moms are in the labor force, yet under current law, pregnant workers can be placed on unpaid leave or forced out of their jobs because of a pregnancy. Currently eighteen states—Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah and West Virginia—and six cities—Central Falls, RI; the District of Columbia; New York City; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; and Providence, RI—have adopted some sort of pregnancy accommodation legislation. California enacted its legislation in 2000, where it has been used countless times to help pregnant women stay healthy and keep their jobs, leading to greater economic security for their families and workforce stability for employers.
The legislation is supported by: A Better Balance, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), American Association of University Women (AAUW), American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, California Women’s Law Center, Equal Rights Advocates, Hadassah, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center, Legal Momentum, Main Street Alliance, March of Dimes, National Organization for Women, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce.