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SENATORS SHAHEEN AND CASEY INTRODUCE PREGNANT WORKERS FAIRNESS ACT TO PROTECT PREGNANT WOMEN FROM WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION

Companion legislation introduced in House by Representatives Nadler, Maloney, Speier, Davis and Fudge

May 14, 2013

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Bob Casey (D-PA) in the Senate, and Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Susan Davis (D-CA) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) in the House, joined by the leaders of women’s advocacy organizations, unions, and business groups from across the nation, introduced critical legislation – the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act – to ensure that pregnant women are not forced out of jobs unnecessarily or denied reasonable job modifications that would allow them to continue working. 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.

“With the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, women will get the reasonable protections they deserve while being able to continue working with a healthy pregnancy,” Senator Jeanne Shaheen said. “Women are a critical part of our workforce and we should do everything we can to support the expecting mothers who are working to provide for their families and contributing to the economy.”

“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,” said Senator Casey. “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.”

“It is unconscionable that pregnant women are not fully protected on the job,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler. “When American families are struggling to make ends meet, we must do everything we can to keep people in their jobs and prevent families from falling through the cracks. Ensuring that a pregnant woman can receive minor and reasonable job accommodations to maintain a healthy pregnancy should be a no-brainer. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is an essential clarification of our laws that underscores our society’s support for pregnant women and their families.”

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and preventing employers from forcing women out on leave when another reasonable accommodation would allow them to continue working. The bill also bars employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

In recent and startling examples, Amy Crosby, a hospital cleaner in Tallahassee, Florida, was forced into unpaid leave from her job when the hospital refused to accommodate her doctor’s request that she not lift more than 20 pounds because of her pregnancy; Heather Wiseman, a retail worker in Salina, Kansas, was fired because she needed to carry a water bottle to stay hydrated and prevent bladder infections; and Victoria Serednyj, an activity director at a nursing home in Valparaiso, Indiana, was terminated because she required help with some physically strenuous aspects of her job to prevent having another miscarriage. For the well-being of pregnant workers, and for the sake of the economic stability of American families, our laws must be updated and clarified.

Some states have passed laws like the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to ensure that pregnant workers have on-the-job protections. In those states – Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Hawaii, Illinois, Texas, and soon Maryland – pregnant workers already have the peace of mind they deserve.

The federal legislation has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights and women’s advocacy organizations, unions, and business associations, including: A Better Balance; the AFL-CIO; the American Association of University Women; the American Civil Liberties Union; the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; California Women’s Law Center; Equal Rights Advocates; Hadassah; the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center; Legal Momentum; the Main Street Alliance; the National Partnership for Women & Families; the National Organization for Women Foundation; the National Women’s Law Center; and many others. A letter of support from 138 organizations can be found here.

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