Trahan, Colleagues Pass Legislation to Secure Rights of Pregnant Workers
Washington, September 17, 2020
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03), the sole Massachusetts Representative on the House Education and Labor Committee, supported passage of H.R. 2694, the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act, a bipartisan proposal that secures pregnant workers’ right to reasonable accommodations.
“As someone who worked full time while pregnant with both of my daughters, I could not imagine having to choose between my job security and a healthy pregnancy,” said Congresswoman Lori Trahan. “Yet workers in nearly half of the states around the country continue to be fired, denied basic accommodations, or denied employment in the first place simply because of their pregnancy. Each day that passes by without the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act becoming law is another day that we fail them and their children.”
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would finally secure clear protections for pregnant workers by clearly establishing their right to a “reasonable accommodation” so that no one is forced to choose between financial security and a healthy pregnancy.
Specifically, the legislation requires employers with 15 or more employees to make reasonable accommodations for job applicants or employees based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. These reasonable accommodations include simple changes such as providing appropriate seating, water breaks, closer parking, flexible work hours, appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel, additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest, and excusing pregnant workers from strenuous activities.
As of September of 2020, only 30 states, the District of Columbia, and four cities required employers to provide accommodations to pregnant workers. Without the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, pregnant workers will be left to a patchwork of state and local laws that leave many of them without protections at all.
Women are the primary, sole, or co- breadwinners in more than half of American households. As women increasingly work later into their pregnancies, many are being forced to choose between financial security and a healthy pregnancy. Between 2006 and 2008, 88 percent of first-time mothers worked during their last trimester.
Yet, even in 2020, federal protections for pregnant workers remain stuck in the 1950s. Current law does not explicitly guarantee all pregnant workers the right to a reasonable accommodation so they can continue working without jeopardizing their pregnancy. While the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was intended to provide legal protections for pregnant workers, the Courts’ interpretation of the law has made it nearly impossible for pregnant workers to prove that they are entitled to reasonable accommodation.
When pregnant women are forced to work without reasonable accommodations, the consequences can be tragic. Studies have shown increased risk of miscarriage and preterm birth as a result of exposure to certain compounds, heavy lifting, overnight work, extended hours, or prolonged periods of sitting or standing. To make matters worse, a recent survey found that 62 percent of women have seen pregnancy discrimination on the job.