Long-sought pregnancy protections are on the verge of becoming law

Under federal law co-sponsored by Bay Area Rep. Jackie Speyer, pregnant employees are entitled to restrictions on where they can sit, what they carry, and other reasonable benefits from their employer. Given.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which passed the House a year and a half ago, was stalled in the Senate until Thursday when it was added to an amendment to the year-end government appropriations bill. The vote on the amendment was 73 to 24. All negative votes were cast by Republicans, but 23 Republicans voted for the amendment and 3 did not vote. President Biden is set to sign the bill on Friday.

Speier told the Chronicle earlier this month that giving pregnant employees workplace protection is one of his top priorities before he leaves the office at the end of the year. She will retire after serving 14 years in Congress.

“It is absurd to claim that we stand for families and procreation, but despite the overwhelming support from faith groups, maternal health groups, business groups, labor unions, women’s and civil rights groups, It took us this long to pass this bill,” Speier said. , D-San Mateo, co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, said in a statement Thursday. have been denied access to labor, and two-thirds of workers have lost pregnancy care cases in court.”

In its ruling, Young v. United Parcel Service, the court held that federal laws requiring workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities do not apply to pregnant workers, but that employers are entitled to work with equivalent restrictions. He said there must be a good reason to treat them less favorably than others.

Fatima Goss Graves, director of the National Women’s Law Center, said that advocates for pregnant employees have been trying to get Congress to mandate equal treatment for more than a decade.

“Before this law, if a pregnant worker had to make minor changes to her duties or policies at work because of her pregnancy, she could take unpaid leave the moment she and her family could at least. Too often I had to take it or get kicked out of the job entirely. In the future, “pregnant workers will not be kicked out of work simply by requesting basic accommodations such as sitting on a stool, carrying a bottle of water, or being allowed to take an extra bathroom break.” will,” she said.

This measure applies to employers with 15 or more workers. Unless the employer can demonstrate “undue difficulty” in operating the business, facilities must be provided to allow workers to continue working during pregnancy or after childbirth. Employers are prohibited from requiring employees to take paid or unpaid leave due to pregnancy.

California already has similar legislation for employers with five or more employees.

Federal law grants partial exemptions to churches and other religious groups, allowing them to give preference to adherents of their own religion when the number of accommodations available is limited, said the National Center for Women’s Law. Vice President Emily Martin said, “It’s unusual for such substantive legislation to be added to a comprehensive appropriation bill, but it’s not unprecedented.”

Politico argued that the Democratic leadership in the Senate delayed action on pregnancy measures in June in response to the party’s response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that declared the constitutional right to abortion. It was reported that he didn’t want to look like that. The bill already had bipartisan support, including support from businesses and unions, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) struggled for months to reach a deal with Republicans. After doing so, they finally added it to the overall appropriations bill, Politico reported. .

Speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday, Schumer said the bill was “an example of how this agency can operate in a bipartisan way and get things done.”

Bob Egelko is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: begelko@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @BobEgelko

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