Why Does Congress Think We Need a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?

123RF Stock Photo
123RF Stock Photo

By Eric B. Meyer

Earlier this week, Representatives Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, Carolyn Maloney D-NY, Jackie Speier D-CA, and Susan Davis D-CA, introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

What’s in the bill and how will it affect employers?

According to a press release from Rep. Nadler, the focus of the bill is on employers affording reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers and applicants:

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will .. .[require] employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and [prevent] 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.”

Pregnancy accommodations are already required

Like many others who represent employers, I’m left scratching my head. Over at the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, Jon Hyman questioned the need for this legislation in light of how employers are already perform under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act:

Unless you are among the tiniest minority of employers that provides no accommodations for any employees’ medical issues or injuries, then the PDA already requires you to accommodate your employees’ pregnancies.”

Jon is right. The EEOC‘s Facts on Pregnancy Discrimination confirm that employers may not single out pregnant employees with respect to workplace accommodations:

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If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job because of her pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, if the employer allows temporarily disabled employees to modify tasks, perform alternative assignments, or take disability leave or leave without pay, the employer also must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled because of pregnancy to do the same.”

Further, as Eve Tahmincioglu notes at CareerDiva, while pregnancy itself is not a disability, “[p]regnant women are also protected under the American With Disabilities Act if they face some sort of covered disability, or exacerbate a disability because of pregnancy.”

Do you support the bill? Sound off below. And I’ll keep you updated as it makes its way through Congress.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.

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1 Comment on “Why Does Congress Think We Need a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?

  1. In an election year, politicians run around looking for ways to leverage their actions for political gain. This is a typical election year “solution” looking for a problem. As you mention, there is very little new added to this legislation…oh, other than opponents can be derided for being against pregnant workers. Ta daaa!.

    While we are on the topic of motherhood and apple pie topics, I suggest a law preventing discrimination against apple pie. You are against it? How un-American of you to hate apple pie! It’s a gotcha year for political rhetoric, similar to the old comedian’s question, “Yes or no: have you stopped beating your wife?” There is no right answer to questions like this.

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