Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, announced approval of H.R. 2694, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). This bipartisan bill would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees and job applicants.
Higgins said, “It’s 2020; there should be clear, strong federal protections for pregnant workers. This bipartisan bill delivers universal standards for the commonsense provisions and protections pregnant workers deserve.”
The PWFA outlines a number of simple requirements to “greatly improve the health, safety and welfare of pregnant workers. These measures include water breaks, closer parking, flexible hours, less physically intensive tasks, appropriately sized uniforms and safety equipment, and additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest throughout the workday.
“As a result of exposure to hazardous materials, extended periods of standing or sitting, lifting of heavy objects, and/or excessive hours, pregnant women are significantly more likely to have a miscarriage or deliver prematurely. These outcomes can be not only lethal to the baby, but can imperil the life of the mother, as well.
“These already grave risks are dramatically exacerbated in the age of COVID-19. Women who are expecting children are more likely to suffer more severe symptoms from the novel coronavirus than non-pregnant women and are at an increased risk of hospitalization. Moreover, with the rising economic insecurity across the country, women are increasingly forced to choose between a healthy pregnancy or a secure stream of income.
“Even before the pandemic, women were already struggling to balance the physical demands of pregnancy with the unnecessary inflexibility of their employers: the U.S. Census Bureau found that nine in every 10 women worked during their last trimester between 2006 and 2008. Recently, more than 60% of women report experiencing job discrimination as a direct result of their pregnancy.”
Despite nearly 90% of American voters supporting the measures proposed by the PWFA, 20 states still do not provide any protections to pregnant employees at all. Instead, pregnant workers are, as the press release said, “presently forced to rely on inconsistent state codes that fail to provide the clear, comprehensive support they need.
“The legislation has a vast coalition of supporters ranging from workers’ rights advocates and civil rights organizations to the business community and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”