This week, the House will consider the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act which purports to protect pregnant workers from discrimination by “ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” 

This sounds like a no-brainer. We all agree that pregnant workers deserve the same treatment in the workplace that all other workers receive. 

Yet the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would introduce a new statute creating new legal requirements and penalizing employers who fail to meet these new standards, could make pregnant women (or women in their childbearing years) seem like potential liabilities to employers. This means that pregnant women and women of childbearing age will be less likely to be considered for new job opportunities.

Pregnancy discrimination is already illegal in the United States. In 1978, in an effort to help women continue working while pregnant, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) which bars discriminatory treatment against women who become pregnant. But due to the law’s outdated and ambiguous language, it is not clear what accommodations employers need to make in order to ensure that pregnant workers are protected and treated fairly. 

Pregnant workers are still not fully protected against discrimination due to this lack of clarity. But we can ensure that pregnant women receive fair treatment in the workplace without creating new laws or limiting women’s economic opportunities.

Indeed, protection for pregnant workers can be guaranteed with a simple change to the Pregnancy Discriminiation Act (PDA). The Pregnancy Discrimination Amendment Act (H.R. 4738), introduced by Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI), would clarify and modernize the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. If enacted, the PDAA would require employers to treat pregnant workers the same as any other employees in similar working conditions.

Unlike the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Amendment Act would not create any new laws or regulations and instead would make a needed change to an existing statute. This was one of the many recommendations made by IWV’s sister organization, Independent Women’s Forum, in the Working for Women Report, an agenda for improving women’s lives.

To learn more, check out IWV’s Fact Sheet on the Pregnancy Discrimination Amendment Act.