The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: Why Policy Experts and Healthcare Providers Agree It’s Time for Congress to Act


All of us deserve to have the ability to look after ourselves and our households with out concern of discrimination and retaliation.

Advocates, legislators and pregnant staff rally on Capitol Hill in help of The Pregnant Employees Equity Act on Dec. 1, 2022. The PWFA would shut a authorized loophole within the landmark Being pregnant Discrimination Act by making certain all employers present pregnant and postpartum staff with modest lodging on the job. (Paul Morigi / Getty Photographs for A Higher Steadiness)

Discrimination within the office towards people who find themselves pregnant is just not a brand new phenomenon. The truth is, this has been an ever-present illness of capitalism and the office, methods that weren’t designed to help being pregnant.

Due to the oppressive affect of office discrimination on the well being and well-being of our communities, it has been the continuing work of advocates and lawmakers to vary our legal guidelines, coverage and tradition to higher look after people who find themselves pregnant. And whereas essential advances have been made, together with the passage of the 1978 Being pregnant Discrimination Act, important gaps stay. We want extra coverage to guard pregnant folks, and the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act can be an essential and mandatory first step.

The 1978 Being pregnant Discrimination Act was an essential regulation that made discrimination on the idea of being pregnant, childbirth or associated medical situations unlawful. Its passage was important. It allowed extra pregnant folks to stay employed and proceed to help their households whereas pregnant with out the priority of being pressured out of a job.

Whereas this laws was not a blanket repair on being pregnant discrimination, the Being pregnant Discrimination Act was essential for making certain girls and folks with the capability for being pregnant may stay and advance within the office—earlier than, throughout and after childbirth.

Sadly, courts have interpreted the protections supplied by the Being pregnant Discrimination Act narrowly, permitting employers to refuse to accommodate staff with medical wants arising out of being pregnant. This implies many pregnant folks proceed to face important being pregnant discrimination and are pressured to decide on between their well being and their jobs.

This context brings us to in the present day, the place we now have a transparent reduce resolution with broad help from lawmakers throughout the political spectrum. And but, even on the finish of 2022, on the point of a brand new Congress, the Senate has not but acted to move the answer often called the Pregnant Employees Equity Act (PWFA).

The PWFA would require employers to supply cheap, non permanent office lodging to pregnant staff so long as the lodging doesn’t impose an undue burden on the employer. These cheap, medically mandatory office lodging can embrace permitting for a further toilet break, having a glass of water at a piece station, having meals at your desk, entry to further masks or a separate house to work in to scale back publicity to COVID-19 or RSV, lifting restrictions, or a stool to sit down on to lower time spent standing.

These lodging are such small changes to an worker’s work that you could be be questioning: Is a regulation just like the PWFA really mandatory? The reply is emphatically sure.

A rally on Capitol Hill in help of The Pregnant Employees Equity Act on Dec. 1, 2022. (Paul Morigi / Getty Photographs for A Higher Steadiness)

As a lawyer and as a supplier of complete reproductive healthcare (together with being pregnant care), we all know that whereas many individuals can count on a routine being pregnant and wholesome beginning, some should make changes of their work actions to maintain a wholesome being pregnant. We write this as pregnant succesful folks, one in every of us a mother or father. Being pregnant is a medical situation that requires adaptation to the wants of a pregnant particular person, together with after they’re at work.

These lodging are such small changes to an worker’s work that you could be be questioning: Is a regulation just like the PWFA really mandatory?

The reply is emphatically sure—however don’t simply take our phrase for it. There are numerous examples—just like the UPS employee who was denied “gentle responsibility,” then misplaced medical protection when she was positioned on unpaid depart. Or the Walmart worker fired for carrying a water bottle. Or the girl who suffered a miscarriage and misplaced her being pregnant as a result of her employer wouldn’t present her with the cheap lodging—primarily weight lifting restrictions—that she wanted.

The well being and financial penalties of the sort of being pregnant discrimination are profound. Pregnant staff—particularly Black, Indigenous, Latinx staff and people being paid low-wages—are routinely fired or pushed out onto unpaid depart after they want being pregnant lodging, threatening livelihoods at a time after they want the safety of a paycheck essentially the most. And others could don’t have any selection however to threat their well being so as to present for themselves and their family members—generally with devastating outcomes for each the mother or father’s and toddler’s well being outcomes.

Our want for compassionate reproductive healthcare and our want for protected, simply workplaces are intertwined. We will’t have a future the place we obtain protected and wholesome communities if we don’t handle the ways in which our being pregnant standing and our standing as staff should align. We should do that work even inside the workplaces of these preventing for reproductive well being, rights and justice: Clinic staff, abortion funders and abortion seekers are additionally deserving of workplaces which have lodging for his or her well being wants.

The necessity for the Pregnant Employees Equity Act is pressing. Our nation is dealing with a number of crises together with an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and a rising maternal mortality epidemic. The nationwide lack of abortion entry can also be an emergency, the place many are being denied abortion care and are pressured to hold pregnancies to time period.

The Senate has an essential and rapidly narrowing alternative to move the Pregnant Employees Equity Act earlier than the top of this Congress. All of us deserve to have the ability to look after ourselves and our households with out concern of discrimination and retaliation.

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