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Following Uncertainty in Wake of Landmark Supreme Court Case, Young v. UPS, Legislation Would Secure Full Workplace Protections for Pregnant Workers

Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced bipartisan legislation that would protect pregnant workers from workplace discrimination. The bill was introduced with Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Dean Heller (R-NV). Click here for video from today’s press conference.

The Supreme Court decision in the case of Young v. UPS left the workplace rights of pregnant workers uncertain. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would address legal ambiguities and help ensure that pregnant women are treated fairly on the job. The legislation, which is closely modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), would require employers to make reasonable accommodations -- such as a minor job modification – that would allow pregnant workers to continue working and prevent them from being forced out on leave or out of their jobs. The bill also prohibits employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Senator Shaheen introduced this legislation in 2012 and led an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the Young v. UPS case.  

“Women should have every right to reasonable workplace accommodations as they provide for their families and contribute to the economy,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bipartisan legislation will protect pregnant women from threats and retaliation as they seek the accommodations they deserve, and I’m excited for the new momentum we have for this legislation in the Senate.”

“In New Hampshire, about 70 percent of women who gave birth in 2013 also worked during their pregnancies, and ensuring that pregnant workers are treated equally in the workplace is essential to working families and our economy,” said Senator Ayotte.  “Our bipartisan legislation would require employers to make reasonable accommodations to allow pregnant workers to keep working, and prevent them from being forced out on leave or out of their jobs – helping ensure that no mother is forced to choose between the health of her baby and her job.”

Sixty-two percent of pregnant women and new moms are in the labor force, yet under current law, pregnant workers can be placed on unpaid leave or forced out of their jobs because of a pregnancy. The recent Supreme Court decision in Young v. UPS recognized that pregnant workers may need temporary accommodations in the workplace, but placed an undue burden on pregnant workers to prove that they were victims of discrimination. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, by using a framework familiar to employers under the ADA, makes it easier for employers to comply with the law, and easier for pregnant workers to request those minor modifications that will enable them to continue working.

The legislation is supported by: 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.