A bipartisan proposal to guarantee basic workplace protections for pregnant workers
“Madam Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 2694, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. No one should have to choose between financial security and a healthy pregnancy. Unfortunately, our pregnancy anti-discrimination laws urgently need be updated to provide reasonable accommodations for workers.
“Current federal law does not clearly guarantee pregnant workers’ right to reasonable accommodations in the workplace – such as water, seating, bathroom breaks, and lifting restrictions. These basic protections are critical to protecting pregnant workers from the tragic consequences of unsafe working conditions, and they are particularly important today, as early evidence suggests that pregnancy leads to an elevated risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
“In 2015, the Supreme Court allowed pregnant workers to bring claims for reasonable accommodation under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in the landmark case of Young v. UPS.
“However, that decision set an unreasonably high standard for pregnancy discrimination. Under the Youngstandard, workers must prove that the accommodations they were denied were provided to other workers who were ‘similar in their inability to work.’
“This standard is onerous, in part, because it assumes that workers can access their coworkers’ personal health information and establish a comparable group of workers. It also creates a perverse legal framework in which companies that treat all of their workers poorly can treat their pregnant workers poorly as well.
“Since the Young decision, courts have ruled against pregnant workers seeking accommodations most of the time.
“In the absence of federal action, nearly three dozen states and localities have filled the void by establishing their own protections for pregnant workers. This patchwork approach is bad for workers – who are frequently left without strong protections – and bad for multi-state employers who have to comply with different states’ workplace standards.
“The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a bipartisan proposal that would finally establish clear, nationwide protections that guarantee pregnant workers the basic right to reasonable accommodations. It would also grant victims of pregnancy discrimination the same remedies as victims of discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin under federal civil rights laws.
“Similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are not required to make accommodations if it imposes an undue hardship on an employer’s business.
“This legislation has broad support across the political spectrum and across our communities. Labor unions, civil rights groups, and the business community – including the Chamber of Commerce – have all endorsed this proposal.
“Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to submit into the record a letter led by the nonprofit A Better Balance and over 200 worker advocacy organizations calling for Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
“I want to thank the gentlemen from New York, Congressman Nadler and Congressman Katko, for their leadership on this legislation. I urge all my colleagues support the bill and I reserve the balance of my time.
Democratic Press Office, 202-226-0853
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