By Aviva Stahl
23 May 2019
A bipartisan group of legislators reintroduced The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) last Tuesday, with the aim of closing the gap between existing protections for pregnant workers and discrimination that still persists against them. The bill was first introduced in 2012 by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) but failed when opponents claimed that it would create an undue burden for companies. Now, the legislators hope for a different outcome.
“No woman should be forced out of a job or denied employment opportunities simply because she is pregnant,” said Representative Lucy McBath (D-GA), one of the sponsors of the bill.
If passed, the PWFA would close existing gaps in workplace protections for pregnant employees by obligating employers to make minor changes to support them – for example permitting someone an extra bathroom break during a shift, or a chair to sit on. Modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, the PWFA states that providing reasonable accommodation is the affirmative duty of an employer unless doing so would pose an undue hardship to his or her business. In addition, the legislation prohibits employers from discriminating against people on the basis of their need for reasonable accommodations related to childbirth or pregnancy.
At the moment, only 25 American states have accommodations laws in place to protect pregnant women, which means that individuals in 50 percent of this country can only rely on federal statutes to guard against workplace discrimination. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), passed in 1974, provides some safeguards, as did a 2015 Supreme Court decision that outlined when and how the PDA should protect accommodations.
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