When Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, it was intended to prevent pregnant workers from being unfairly treated in the workplace. However, in the years since it was enacted, the vague language of the law has made it difficult to enforce. In fact, more than two-thirds of pregnant workers lose discrimination lawsuits, according to A Better Balance, an organization that advocates for pregnant workers, caregivers, and families.
But the workplace discrimination that pregnant workers often encounter is as blatant as it is pervasive. And all too often it has tragic consequences.
Consider the case of Tasha Murrell, who worked at the XPO Logistics warehouse in Memphis, Tennessee. Despite that fact and the stomach pain she was experiencing, her employer would not allow her to change her duties. complained of pain to his boss at work and asked if he could go home early. She said no. The next day she miscarried.
Other workers who asked to shift to lighter duties, work indoors instead of outdoors in the heat, and take more breaks to sit, drink water or express breastmilk did as well. facing hostility. They are forced to take unpaid leave, slowly kicked out of work, or simply laid off simply because they asked for accommodation to support a healthy pregnancy. Some have lost their careers, income and even homes as a result.
But a new bill that passed the House in 2021 with overwhelming bipartisan support could put an end to these practices once and for all. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” to pregnant workers, allowing them to continue working without endangering their financial safety or health. These accommodations may include additional toilet and water breaks, options to sit while working, relief from heavy lifting or hazardous tasks, schedule changes, and space to express breast milk. There are cases.
In most cases, it is a modest adjustment to the worker’s liability and nothing is required if it imposes an “undue burden” on the employer. But even these small changes can be the difference between a healthy pregnancy and financial security for workers on the one hand and a very real risk to mothers and their babies and their families at large on the other. .
The bill is now sitting on the desk of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.). This bill needs to be brought to the floor now. You shouldn’t be holding bills that are so important to having a successful pregnancy and being able to keep working. Isn’t it time to do the right thing for pregnant workers?
It should come as no surprise to the country that pregnant workers face so many hurdles at work. The United States has a rather sad track record when it comes to supporting women and families, in fact it is just one of her six countries in the world and the only one without a paid parental leave scheme. It is also a wealthy country. This means that many workers not only have to keep working until almost the day they give birth, but also have to return to work just weeks after giving birth. This is despite the fact that it usually takes months, if not years, for the human body to fully recover from the enormous physical strain of pregnancy and childbirth.
However, many women overcome these difficulties because they need income or health insurance provided by their employer. Many others simply love what they do and want to work. What they don’t want is having to choose between a job and a healthy baby.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act fills a gap in current legislation and provides the kind of protection workers need. And while these provide real-time benefits to pregnant workers themselves, allowing them to continue working and properly care for their bodies and their babies, ultimately our society as a whole is better off. Why? This is important for economic growth and prosperity as it allows more women to stay in the workforce.
The COVID-19 pandemic has realized just how much the loss of millions of female workers (nearly one million had not returned to work as of April 27) has taken its toll on the country’s economy. I was allowed to. In many cases, as essential workers who keep grocery stores, day care centers, pharmacies, emergency rooms, etc. open through the crisis, so many of us are critical to the survival of this country. Okay. Women make up about half of the workforce and 85% of working women have been pregnant at least once, so that would be enough to make passing this law an urgent priority. must.
No excuses. This bill has great support. It’s not just the halls of parliament. From the ACLU to the American Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the American Chamber of Commerce, labor unions, and organizations that advocate and address the most pressing policy issues related to motherhood and family (such as Mom Congress) all support the legislation. So does about 90% of voters, including 93% of Democrats, 88% of independents and 87% of Republicans, according to progressive think tank and polling firm Data for Progress.
Majority Schumer, bring the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to the Senate floor. Any further delay could mean the death of this bill, with dire consequences leading to grave consequences that women and their families will feel for decades to come. Asking for simple accommodations at work so that you can have a healthy pregnancy without risking malnutrition is not very demanding. And all it takes is a vote.
Martha Nolan is Senior Policy Advisor for HealthyWomen. HealthyWomen works to educate women between the ages of 35 and her 64 to make informed health choices.