No one should have to choose between their paycheck and a healthy pregnancy.
The U.S. House of Representatives agrees. Today, they voted to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires reasonable accommodations for employees limited by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. The vote was 315-101.
The PWFA was first introduced in 2012 by Representative Jerry Nadler. It's a bipartisan proposal to guarantee basic workplace protections for pregnant employees, like bathroom breaks and stools for workers to sit.
"Over the nearly nine years since I first introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, I have met with countless pregnant workers and listened to their heartrending stories of having to make the impossible decision between staying at work or protecting the health of their pregnancy. That's a choice no one should ever be forced to make and it's why I have fought tirelessly to advance the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act," said Representative Nadler.
I'm so proud that the House passed my bill today, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, by a sweeping bipartisan vote… https://t.co/n9JsQYpJ4s
— Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler)
"Passing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act isn't just common sense—it's a question of fairness and decency. Guaranteeing pregnant workers the most reasonable of accommodations will erode pernicious discrimination against pregnant women, strengthen our economy, and keep women and children healthy and safe. I'm delighted that the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act passed the House with bipartisan support today and I'll keep working until it is signed into law."
A Better Balance, the national legal advocacy organization dedicated to advancing justice for workers, celebrated today's vote.
"This represents a resounding victory for the pregnant workers who have been treated like second class citizens under the law for far too long, especially low-income workers and mothers of color," said Dina Bakst, Co-Founder & Co-President of A Better Balance.
"At A Better Balance, we have heard from thousands of expecting mothers over the years who have been denied accommodations and forced off the job, suffering devastating economic consequences as a result. For nearly a decade, we have been leading the charge to combat this horrific mistreatment, alongside so many brave women who have spoken out, to pass this urgently needed legislation."
"As we emerge from a global pandemic that has forced millions of women out of work, the Senate must listen to pregnant workers and act swiftly to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and send it to the President's desk. It's long overdue," said Bakst.
While Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 over 40 years ago, many workers still face discrimination, which can include being denied reasonable accommodations, being fired, or not being hired in the first place.
A recent survey found that 62% of workers have witnessed pregnancy discrimination on the job. The PWFA seeks to change that.
The bill would require private-sector employers with 15 or more workers to make "reasonable accommodations" for pregnant employees. Those accommodations could come in the form of water and bathroom breaks, stools, or a reduction in lifting requirements.
Pregnant workers want to stay on the job and provide for their families. No worker should have to decide between a… https://t.co/PFtde2HvTD
— Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler)
The bill would also protect workers from retaliation after making those requests and from being forced into taking unpaid leave. Lawmakers say this bill and its protections are long overdue.
"I first introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) nine years ago after hearing story after story of workers facing impossible choices between a healthy pregnancy and a steady paycheck. The need for the PWFA has only grown, especially as pregnant workers have faced new risks and additional discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Congressman Nadler in a statement.
"Pregnant workers deserve to know that they will be protected," he said.
"Like many women in America, my story includes a struggle to get pregnant," said Rep. Lucy McBath, one of the bill's cosponsors. "When we finally succeeded, it was truly a miracle for me and my family. After suffering some complications with my pregnancy, my doctor insisted I stay home from work to protect the health of me and my baby."
"It is so vitally important that mothers receive quality healthcare during their pregnancy, without the risk of discrimination," Rep. McBath continued. "I am proud to support this legislation that will help protect pregnant women and their families, because no mother should ever have to choose between the health of themselves and their child, or their paycheck."
The PWFA has broad support from more than 250 advocate and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
We know that support for mothers is non-partisan. In our 2021 State of Motherhood survey, 85% of mothers said they would support or vote for a political candidate who supported legislation that did more to actively support mothers, regardless of that candidate's party affiliation. Mothers are a powerful voting bloc: they want what's best for their families and they're willing to use their voting ballots to get it.
At Motherly, we support legislation that supports mothers. This legislation would offer valuable protections when pregnant workers need it most.