Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

HR 2416, S 1101

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Almost 40 years after passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, pregnant women still face challenges on the job. This is especially so in jobs that require physical activity like running, lifting, moving, standing, or repetitive motion—activities that may pose difficulty to some women during some stages of pregnancy. Many of these women could continue to work without risk to themselves or their pregnancies with temporary job modifications. But in the absence of such a modification, a pregnant worker may face a choice no one should have to make—between the health of her pregnancy and her job.

Pregnant Women’s Work Is Crucial to Families’ Economic Security

Today, women make up about half the workforce.  More women are continuing to work while they are pregnant, through later stages of pregnancy. For example, two-thirds of women who had their first child between 2006 and 2008 worked during pregnancy, and 88 percent of these first-time mothers worked into their last trimester.

The great majority of women also return to work after pregnancy: 71 percent of mothers are in the labor force. In 2015, 42 percent of working mothers were their family’s primary breadwinner and nearly another one-quarter of mothers were co-breadwinners. Because preparing for a new baby means preparing for increased expenses, a woman’s wages will often be particularly important to her family when she is pregnant.

Mismatch between job duties and the demands of pregnancy tends to take a particular toll on low-income women, who are more likely to work in jobs that offer limited flexibility. It also harms women in relatively high-paying, physically demanding jobs traditionally held by men, such as trucking or policing—jobs that already are often particularly difficult for women to enter. And for the five to eight percent of pregnant women experiencing intimate partner violence, such mismatch undermines the economic independence that is critical to escaping a violent relationship. When women face a physical conflict between work and childbearing, they will often lose their job, and their families will lose income at the very moment their financial needs increase.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Strengthens and Affirms Protections for Pregnant Workers

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) (H.R. 2417, S. 1101) would answer the questions left open by the Supreme Court by setting out a simple, easy-to-apply legal standard that would provide clarity for employers and employees alike.  The PWFA would let pregnant women continue to do their jobs and support their families by requiring employers to make the same sorts of accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions that the ADA requires employers to make for disabilities.

S.1512 – Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
National Women’s Law Center