Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694)
H.R. 2694: Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
The purpose of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is to remove certain barriers within the workplace that are often targeted towards women. Such barriers include pregnancy-related discrimination and/or loss of income as a result of requesting alternative accommodations. Many women have suffered miscarriages as a result of poor work conditions or failure by their employer to provide suitable accommodations. Some stories are highlighted in a 2018 report by the New York Times.
This act sets forth to promote women’s health and economic security by ensuring reasonable measures are in place for pregnant women to perform their job duties without an increased risk of harm to their health and the health of their unborn child.
Before we go any further, let’s first address why this act is vital by looking at the current laws that are in place and provide protection, to some degree, for pregnant women in the workplace: 1) The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and 2) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978:
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended section 701 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to prohibit sex discrimination, on the basis of pregnancy, to include the following language:
"(k) The terms 'because of sex' or 'on the basis of sex' include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work, and nothing in section 703(h) of this title shall be interpreted to permit otherwise. This subsection shall not require an employer to pay for health insurance benefits for abortion, except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term, or except where medical complications have arisen from an abortion: Provided, That nothing herein shall preclude an employer from providing abortion benefits or otherwise affect bargaining agreements in regard to abortion.". .
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):
Title I of the ADA, in respect to employment, the act states the following:
“Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment-related opportunities available to others. For example, it prohibits discrimination in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment. It restricts questions that can be asked about an applicant's disability before a job offer is made, and it requires that employers make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities, unless it results in undue hardship. Religious entities with 15 or more employees are covered under title I.”
So, why is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act so important? Because, there is currently no federal law in place that guarantees all pregnant workers the right to sensible alternatives for working conditions that put their pregnancy in jeopardy. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act sets forth to explicitly guarantee such working conditions.
Although several states have adopted laws requiring reasonable accommodations, a more consistent and guaranteed approach is needed to ensure protection across all jurisdictions. See if your state is among the 30 states who currently have protections in place for pregnant workers.
Women make up over 60% of the workforce and with COVID-19 wreaking havoc around the world, protection for pregnant workers in the U.S. is a critical matter. Learn more about the need for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act by accessing the following Fact Sheet.