Our newly released report, Long Overdue: The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a Critical Measure to Remove Barriers to Women’s Workplace Participation and Promote Healthy Pregnancies, makes clear that urgent action is needed to pass the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act this Congress. Pregnant workers cannot, and should not have to, wait any longer.
For over a decade, A Better Balance has been leading the movement to remedy the second-class treatment facing pregnant workers, especially women of color in low-wage jobs, and to lift up the voices of the workers who have been forced to choose between their paycheck and a healthy pregnancy. Those injustices have come into sharper relief with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and millions of women forced out of the workplace due to pregnancy and caregiving needs, or forced to put their health at risk as essential workers. The time to level the playing field and ensure pregnant workers can fully participate in the workforce is now.
To do that, Congress must pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. This report is an update to our May 2019 report, Long Overdue: It Is Time for the Federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which laid out the critical need for the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. In the two years since then, the legislation has made significant progress. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act passed the House of Representatives in May 2021, with overwhelming bipartisan support, including the support of both Democratic and Republican House leadership. Major business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Society for Human Resources Management, the National Restaurant Association, and others are also calling for the bill’s passage because of the clarity it provides employers and the critical role it will play in keeping pregnant workers healthy and attached to the workforce. Yet, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is still not yet law and because of that, pregnant workers are still being forced out of work or onto unpaid leave or forced to risk their health because of gaps in our nation’s laws. Congress must pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act without delay and send it to the President’s desk.
As this report makes clear, in the two years since Long Overdue was published, the need for a federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has only become more stark. We have seen that:
- Pregnant workers are still being denied the accommodations they need to stay healthy and working due to gaps in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Pregnant workers continue to be forced to risk their economic security—in the midst of a global pandemic that has had a disproportionate impact on women’s careers.
- Urgent action is needed to support maternal health and pregnancy accommodations are one critical solution.
- While five more states have passed pregnancy accommodations laws in the last two years, including Tennessee, pregnant workers deserve the right to reasonable accommodation no matter where they live.
Jennifer, a nurse practitioner from Texas who was forced onto unpaid leave when all she needed was a simple accommodation, said it best:
“A pregnant woman is valuable. We’re valuable to the country, we’re valuable to the workforce, and it’s time that we start getting treated that way.”
Preserving pregnant workers’ economic security was a matter of critical importance before the pandemic, but with experts suggesting that it could take years to undo the pandemic’s damage to women’s economic equality and our economic growth, the message is clear: Congress must pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act now.