Rep. Donna Shalala Votes to Strengthen Protections for Pregnant Workers

Community Update from Congresswoman Donna Shalala

Today, Congresswoman Donna Shalala joined the House in voting to pass H.R. 2694, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bipartisan bill that establishes a pregnant worker’s clear-cut right to reasonable workplace accommodations. Currently there is no federal law that explicitly 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.

As more women are becoming the primary breadwinners for their families, more of them are working later into their pregnancies to protect their households’ financial stability,” said Congresswoman Shalala. “This legislation will ensure that pregnant workers have the right to basic, reasonable accommodations in order to continue providing for their families and maintain the critical role they play in our nation’s economy.”

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

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has broad support from more than 200 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 percent said they support the proposal, including 81 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of Independents, and 96 percent of Democrats.

Under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act:

  • Public sector employers as well as private sector employers with more than 15 employees must make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.
    • As under 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 to 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.

Read more about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act here

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