There is a lot happening right now in support of women in the workforce who are pregnant.
During recent hearings on Capitol Hill, several women explained their personal experiences as pregnant workers who were pushed out of their jobs in lieu of reasonable accommodations; A Better Balance (which has been working with our team in Wyoming) and other national organizations testified about the importance of the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act--and its benefit to businesses, women, families, and state economies.
Thought that pregnant women were already protected under the law? So did we.
Right now, pregnant women are pushed out of their jobs because the law does not explicitly guarantee reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, breastfeeding, and childbirth. This means pregnant workers who simply need a stool to sit on, access to water to stay hydrated, or temporary relief from heavy lifting are pushed out of their jobs or even terminated.
Why is this happening? In short, because there is a patchwork of laws that misunderstand the realities of the needs of pregnant women in the workforce today. Here's a quick overview of the laws:
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act celebrated its 40th birthday on Halloween. According to the EEOC, "The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII. Women affected by pregnancy or related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work."
When the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) was expanded in 2008 it ensured that if you have a medical condition in your pregnancy, e.g., gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, you could receive protections and accommodations. But if a woman had a healthy pregnancy and was working to keep complications from arising--by following doctor's orders and not lifting more than 20lbs, for example--there were no protections or accommodations. It fell to the courts to determine whether a condition from an earlier pregnancy might constitute a qualified disability.
So there is still a gap between the federal laws. And pregnant, working women fall into this gap.
The *bipartisan* Pregnant Worker Fairness Act (HR2964) would change that. The bill would be enacted: "To eliminate discrimination and promote women’s health and economic security by ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition."
It would ensure that pregnant workers in the labor force have access to the simple accommodations they might need to maintain a healthy pregnancy and employers get clarity about what the law intends. It effectively closes the gaps in existing law. The PWFA would explicitly ensure employers will reasonably accommodate employees with medical conditions related to pregnancy and breastfeeding when necessary unless it would cause an undue hardship on the employer. The law will help prevent problems before they start.
Twenty-seven states, including Utah, Colorado, West Virginia, South Carolina, Kentucky (just passed in 2018), and Nebraska already require certain employers to provide accommodations to pregnant employees.
Thanks to Rep. Mike Yin (HD16), Wyoming could join these ranks and pass its own *nonpartisan* legislation--the Wyoming Pregnant Worker Fairness Act--to close the gap, clarify the law, and protect businesses and pregnant women.
The Wyoming Pregnant Worker Fairness Act benefits both business and women. Benefits for businesses:
Increase employee retention and morale, and reduce employers’ turnover and training costs, which can be quite high.
Avoid costly litigation by providing clear guidelines for employers so they can anticipate their responsibilities.
Ensuring pregnant workers stay safe on the job will reduce employers’ healthcare costs.
Benefits for women and families:
Women who need income but lack accommodations are often forced to continue working under unhealthy conditions, having no choice but to risk their own health as well as the health of their babies.
Nearly one in 10 babies in Wyoming are born pre-term, and 60% of counties in the state are seeing the rates worsen by the year.
Physically demanding work, where accommodations are more often necessary but too often unavailable, has been associated with an increased risk for preterm birth and low birth weight.
Benefits for Wyoming:
Wyoming gets a C+ grade for female labor force participation and a D+, a near failing grade, on the women’s poverty and opportunity index.
The State must increase the participation of women, including pregnant women, in the workforce to strengthen its economy.
The WY PWFA will also save taxpayers money in the form of unemployment insurance, Medicaid costs, and other public benefits.
No woman in Wyoming should have to choose between the health of her pregnancy and her job. Yet, this is happening all too often in the Equality State. The Wyoming Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act (WY PWFA) would ensure that pregnant workers are given fair treatment on the job, provide clearer expectations for employers, and boost Wyoming’s economy.
We encourage you to learn more and to ask your representatives to support the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act--here in Wyoming and in Washington, DC.