As we continue to face rising temperatures and heat waves across the country, those who are pregnant and working in extreme heat have new protections under the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which provides the right to reasonable accommodations like access to water bottles or stools to sit, additional or longer break times, and lighter duty or indoor work.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which took effect this past June, closes gaps in the law that previously left millions of pregnant and postpartum workers, who are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses and complications, without access to reasonable accommodations – particularly women of color in low-wage, physically demanding jobs, who are disproportionately impacted by extreme heat on the job, which can lead to adverse health outcomes. Under the law, workers for private employers with at least 15 employees can now request the simple but critical accommodations they need to stay safe and healthy on the job, including in high temperatures unless the requested accommodations would pose an “undue hardship” to the employer. In addition to the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, 30 states have similar state-level protections for pregnant workers, many of which cover workplaces with fewer than 15 employees.
As temperatures climb across the country each summer, it remains clear that alleviating the climate crisis is a matter of reproductive, racial, and gender justice, and that policies like a national OSHA heat standard, Protecting Moms and Babies Against Climate Change Act, and paid sick time will be essential in ensuring that workers can attend to their health needs when working physically strenuous jobs in high-heat environments. We remain committed to ensuring our nation’s supportive workplace policies meet the needs of all workers, particularly those most vulnerable to potentially dangerous working conditions caused by the climate crisis.
For assistance in exercising your rights under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, visit our know-your-rights resources, which include a sample letter requesting accommodations from your employer, or contact our free and confidential legal helpline at 1-833-NEED-ABB.