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U.S. Rep. Newman Votes To Pass Bipartisan Legislation To Strengthen Protections For Pregnant Workers

May 14, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Marie Newman (D-IL) voted to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bipartisan bill that establishes a pregnant worker’s clear-cut right to reasonable workplace accommodations, provided they do not impose an undue burden on their employer. There is currently no federal law that explicitly and affirmatively guarantees all pregnant workers the right to basic accommodations – such as appropriate seating, water breaks, and relief from heavy lifting – so they can continue working without jeopardizing their pregnancy. 

“No one should have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and a paycheck,” said Congresswoman Newman. “I’m proud to support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to ensure that all workers are treated with respect and dignity in the workplace. With this bill, which is supported by over 90% of Americans, we will help address gender disparities in employment, and work to ensure that no worker faces discrimination for raising a family.” 

The House vote comes as COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten workers’ health and safety, particularly for pregnant workers who may be at increased risk of severe illness from the virus. Women comprise 64% of frontline workers.  

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has broad support from more than 250 worker advocates, civil rights groups, and the business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In a recent survey of voters across the country, 89% said they support the proposal, including 81% of Republicans, 86% of Independents, and 96% of Democrats. 

Under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act:

  • Private sector employers with more than 15 employees as well as public sector employers must make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers (employees and job applicants with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions).
    • Similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are not required to make an accommodation if it imposes an undue hardship on an employer’s business.
  • Pregnant workers cannot be denied employment opportunities, retaliated against for requesting a reasonable accommodation, or forced take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation is available.
  • Workers denied a reasonable accommodation under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will have the same rights and remedies as those established under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These include lost pay, compensatory damages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
    • Public sector employees have similar relief available under the Congressional Accountability Act, Title V of the United States Code, and the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991.

Read more about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act here.