As GOP War on Women Continues, House Bill Protecting Pregnant Workers from Discrimination Gains Momentum, Reaches 100 Cosponsors

Jul 12, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Susan Davis (D-CA) announced that their bill, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, has reached the 100 cosponsor mark and continues to build support nationally.  The Act, supported by the leaders of women’s advocacy organizations, unions, and business groups, would ensure that pregnant women are not forced out of jobs unnecessarily or denied reasonable job modifications that would allow them to continue working.

“As Republicans step up their efforts to take rights away from women, while failing to do anything to create jobs or economic development to help American families, 100 cosponsors of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act are standing up for women and families,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler.  “Ensuring that a woman who needs reasonable job adjustments to maintain a healthy pregnancy gets those accommodations should be central to our society’s support for strong and stable families, and a priority for every Member of Congress.  I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join us and support this bill.”

“Women need to work during pregnancy and must not be penalized in the workplace for choosing to have a child,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney said. “The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will give women the tools they need to fight ‘maternal profiling’ on the job.”

“Women are not disposable workers who can be cast off if, and when, they are pregnant,” said Rep. Jackie Speier. “Welcoming women in the workforce also means women who are pregnant. They deserve the same treatment as any other employee who is in need of a temporary accommodation. I served in the California State Assembly during both of my pregnancies and understand the challenges that working women are confronted with during those nine months. In addition to the regular stresses that come with carrying a child, working women should not also fear losing their paycheck.”

“With more and more women working while pregnant, we need to make sure that their employers provide them the reasonable and necessary accommodations they need (such as access to water) to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy,” said Rep. Susan Davis. “It is unfortunate that Congress needs to even address this issue since any sensible person would consider it inconceivable to fire a pregnant woman for trying to care for the health of herself and her baby.”

Currently, pregnant working women around the country are being denied simple adjustments – permission to use a stool while working a cash register, or to carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated, or temporary reassignment to lighter duty tasks – that would keep them working and supporting their families while maintaining healthy pregnancies.  The legislation will close legal loopholes and ensure that pregnant women are treated fairly on the job. 

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will accomplish this by preventing employers from forcing women out on leave when another reasonable accommodation would allow them to continue working.  The bill also bars employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

In recent and startling examples, Heather Wiseman, a retail worker in Salina, Kansas, was fired because she needed to carry a water bottle to stay hydrated and prevent bladder infections; Victoria Serednyj, an activity director at a nursing home in Valparaiso, Indiana, was terminated because she required help with some physically strenuous aspects of her job to prevent having another miscarriage; and Peggy Young, a delivery truck driver in Landover, Maryland, was forced out on unpaid leave because she had a lifting restriction and was denied light duty. 

Some recent press on the issue:

The legislation has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights and women’s advocacy organizations, unions, and business associations, including: A Better Balance; the AFL-CIO; the American Association of University Women; the American Civil Liberties Union; the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; California Women’s Law Center; Equal Rights Advocates; Hadassah; the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center; Legal Momentum; the Main Street Alliance; the National Partnership for Women & Families; the National Organization for Women Foundation; the National Women’s Law Center; and many others.