Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Introduced in Congress
If it passes, a new bill introduced in the House of Representatives in May will require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. The proposed legislation, called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, would also prohibit employers from requiring pregnant employees to take leave when the employer could offer a reasonable accommodation instead, or requiring pregnant employees to accept accommodations they don’t want to take.
Currently, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects pregnant workers against job discrimination, but it does not require employers to offer accommodations, because pregnancy is not considered an impairment under the Americans With Disabilities Act. According to the bill’s sponsors, the new legislation would fill in gaps in federal law and give pregnant workers the right to what the bill’s lead sponsor, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, calls “minor and reasonable job adjustments.”
The bill uses language and concepts similar to those used in the ADA. It says employers must “make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of a job applicant or employee, unless such covered entity can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of such covered entity.”
Congresswoman Jackie Speier gave several examples of the kinds of situations involving pregnant workers that the bill is intended to address: a retail worker who was fired because she needed to carry a water bottle, a nursing-home activity director who was fired because she needed help moving tables and pushing wheelchairs, and a delivery-truck driver who was required to take unpaid leave instead of being allowed to go on light duty, which was an option available to injured drivers.
Similar laws are already in effect in several states, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana and Minnesota.
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