State and federal laws prohibit discriminating against pregnant women. However, too many employers ignore these laws or find ways around compliance. Thus, additional legislative efforts are necessary to reinforce legal protections for pregnant workers and close gaps in the existing laws.
These are some of the goals of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA).
Creating a uniform national standard
The PWFA is a bipartisan measure to create a uniform national standard that would allow pregnant women to stay active and healthy in the workplace. It would do this by clarifying processes and creating clear guidelines regarding reasonable accommodations and discrimination.
Currently, pregnant women can face upsetting situations, including:
- Job loss due to discrimination
- Having to work when they are sick
- Performing job functions that put their health or their unborn baby’s health in danger
- Experiencing unfair penalties due to pregnancy-related absences
The PWFA bill attempts protect pregnant women from these situations so that they don’t need to choose between earning a living and a healthy pregnancy.
The PWFA could also benefit employers, as employers who treat pregnant workers fairly can experience less turnover, fewer lawsuits and higher productivity rates.
Next steps for the PWFA
Lawmakers have been trying to pass the PWFA for years to provide specific protections for pregnant women. It has yet to be successful.
However, the House of Representatives has passed the bill with bipartisan support. We must wait to see if the Senate will take it up for a vote.
Unless and until the PWFA becomes law, pregnant workers can still be at risk of unfair treatment due to their pregnancy. Thankfully, even if PWFA is not in place, there are legal remedies that can help victims of workplace harassment or discrimination pursue the justice they deserve if an employer has violated their rights.