For as long as women have been in the workforce, they have been forced to decide between the health of their pregnancy and staying on the job. Pregnant workers are often asked to take on workplace responsibilities that place their safety and the safety of their pregnancy in danger—lifting heavy loads, working extended hours, being exposed to toxic chemicals and substances—and lack the workplace protections that mean the difference between keeping their job or putting their pregnancy at risk. Simply put, that’s unconscionable and it's why I introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) in 2012, which guarantees those crucial workplace protections to pregnant workers and provides needed relief to pregnant workers to whom protections are not provided. Today, it passed the full House by a vote of 329 to 73.
The bipartisan PWFA seeks to safeguard the rights and safety of pregnant workers by fixing how pregnancy accommodation is treated under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The PWFA moves away from demanding that workers be able to prove discrimination—which can often be nearly impossible—and instead, creates an affirmative right to accommodation. Using the framework and language of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the bill requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers so long as the accommodation does not impose an undue hardship on the employer. This bill erodes pernicious discrimination against pregnant women, makes our businesses and our economy stronger, and keeps women and children healthier and safer.
Over the eight years since I first introduced the PWFA, I have met with countless pregnant workers and heard their stories of having to choose between the health of their pregnancy and remaining at work. They have told me about employers refusing to allow them the extra bathroom break or the place to sit that they need to stay on the job. I have listened to them speak about their experiences being fired or forced on leave after their bosses learned that they were pregnant. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, these exploitative practices have only grown more pronounced and severe, with waves of employers firing pregnant workers rather than finding ways for them to safely return to work. The need for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has never been more palpable or more urgent and I am glad that this bill has backing from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
I am proud that the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act passed the full House today with bipartisan support. I will continue to do all in my power to ensure that it becomes law.