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Authors of Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act say pregnant workers deserve reasonable workplace accommodations

(Washington, DC) – This morning, as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments in Peggy Young v. UPS, a pregnancy discrimination case, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) called on the Court to protect working pregnant women across the United States. The case could determine whether and when the Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires an employer to make reasonable accommodations for a pregnant worker out of a medical need.

“Women make up nearly half of the workforce, and in Pennsylvania, approximately 96,000 women in the workforce give birth each year,” Senator Casey said. “Too many women still face discrimination in the workplace during pregnancy as some employers continue to refuse to provide reasonable accommodations. No woman should be forced out of a job because she is pregnant. Every employer should work to provide accommodations that will allow women to keep working safely through their pregnancies.”

“A woman should never have to face a choice between her job and pregnancy,” Senator Shaheen said. “Women are a crucial part of our workforce, and they have every right to receive reasonable workplace accommodations to continue a healthy pregnancy while providing for their families and contributing to the economy.” 

Casey and Shaheen are authors of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), legislation which would strengthen the rights of pregnant workers to request accommodations during their pregnancy without fear of retribution. In September, Casey and Shaheen led 123 members of Congress in filing an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of Peggy Young.  In her case, Young v. UPS, Ms. Young argues that she was discriminated against in the workplace when her employer refused to provide modifications to her job that would have allowed her to continue working during her pregnancy, even though similar modifications were routinely provided to other employees with similar ability or inability to work.

Young v. UPS

According to Ms. Young’s case, accommodations were routinely given to workers with temporary injuries, but when Peggy Young asked for an accommodation to comply with her doctor’s recommendation that she not lift boxes over 20 pounds due to her pregnancy, her employer denied the request. Ms. Young challenged her employer in court alleging that her employer violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Unfortunately, Young lost her case in the lower courts.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)

The PWFA would secure the right of a pregnant worker to ask for workplace accommodations without fear of retribution. Today, women make up nearly half of the labor force, and three-quarters of women entering the workforce will be pregnant and employed at some point in their careers.

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.

Some states have passed laws like the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to ensure that pregnant workers have on-the-job protections, but millions of women are vulnerable to this type of workplace discrimination.