Well Being

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Aims To Do What Should Have Been Done All Along

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Pregnant office workerCongress is considering an act that could really, really help infuse some semblance of humanity back into the world, after several leaders and politicians proposed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. This piece of legislation isn't interested in controlling women's bodies or dealing with contraceptives. It's just hoping to make workplace life fairer for pregnant employees.

Senators Bob Casey and Jeanne Shaheen, Representatives Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Jackie Speier, Susan Davis and Marcia Fudge introduced the legislation act in order to protect pregnant women from discrimination and ridiculousness in the workplace.

Pregnant women have been treated horribly for years. I've known women who were unofficially fired for being pregnant or taking maternity leave. I've worked for companies where women were told to leave in order to pump. I've also worked for companies that provided pumping rooms for women, and that's obviously the direction society should be heading. Pregnancy is an every-day, normal part of life, but sometimes if you have to pee extra, you shouldn't be fired for it. Sounds obvious if you're even partially a good human being.

Over 3,000 pregnancy-related discrimination reports were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was written to make sure that pregnant women aren't forced out of jobs unnecessarily or denied basics on-the-job. The press release states, “Currently, pregnant working women around the country are being denied simple adjustments – permission to use a stool while working a cash register, or to carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated, or temporary reassignment to lighter duty tasks – that would keep them working and supporting their families while maintaining healthy pregnancies. The legislation will close legal loopholes and ensure that pregnant women are treated fairly on the job.”

While none of this is news to me, I still can't believe that legislation like this even needs to be put into place. These very basic workplace modifications are not only humane, they're in no way an obstacle toward one's work.

Basically, the Act will require employers to make accommodations for pregnant workers and prevent employers from forcing women out on leave when they could continue working in other reasonable ways, like from home or part-time. The bill will also stop employers from denying work opportunities to women based on their pregnancy-related requirements.

Think back on Amy Crosby, a Florida hospital cleaner who was forced into unpaid maternity leave because she couldn't lift more than 20 pounds. Or Marissa Carbonara who was laid-off because she got pregnant, leading to a major lawsuit.

Then there was Kristi Rifkin, who was told to use her vacation time at T-Mobile in order to use the bathroom. Yes. You read that correctly.

The list goes on and on.

Some states already have Acts in place to protect pregnant women on the job, including Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Hawaii, Illinois, Texas–with the newest being Maryland, soon.

Senator Casey said, “Pregnant workers face discrimination in the workplace every day, which is an inexcusable detriment to women and working families in Pennsylvania and across the country. This bill will finally extend fairness to pregnant women so that they can continue to contribute to a productive economy while progressing through pregnancy in good health.”

Congresswoman Jackie Speier said, “Women are not disposable workers who can be cast off if, and when, they are pregnant. Welcoming women in the workforce also means women who are pregnant. They deserve the same treatment as any other employee who is in need of a temporary accommodation. I served in the California State Assembly during both of my pregnancies and understand the challenges that working women are confronted with during those nine months. In addition to the regular stresses that come with carrying a child, working women should not also fear losing their paycheck.”

Fingers crossed.

Photo: Getty Images