Congress is expected to vote on legislation affecting working mothers-to-be today: the Pregnancy Fairness Act. While the legislation may be well-intended, it will not provide the intended protections to working moms. Congress should vote against this bill and pass the right kind of reforms to give moms-to-be piece of mind.
When a woman becomes pregnant, she should not have to worry about being unfairly discriminated against at work. It’s reasonable for her to have some accommodations like other employees with health conditions. Unfortunately, that does not always happen.
Federal law prohibited discrimination against pregnant women over 40 years ago. However, a 2015 Supreme Court case failed to ensure that some protections under federal law would apply to pregnant women.
As we explained in a letter to Congress:
This language was the focus of a Supreme Court case, Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc. (2015), in which the Court found that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not explicitly require employers to treat pregnant workers the “same” as “any other persons” (who are similar in their ability or inability to work).
If this sounds confusing, it’s because it is confusing. Consequently, it is unclear what accommodations employers need to make in order to ensure that pregnant workers are protected and treated fairly.
Some members of Congress introduced the Pregnancy Fairness Act as a solution to this problem. It may sound good on paper, but the real-world implications may be to limit opportunities for women.
This bill, modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), would require employers to make accommodations to allow a pregnant woman to continue working as well as prohibiting employers from denying her a job because of accommodations related to her pregnancy or childbirth.
However, an unintended consequence of this bill might be to make employers reticent to hire women of childbearing age.
There is a solution to clearing up the ambiguities that leave pregnant women in limbo. Congress should amend the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to clarify that a pregnant worker must receive the same accommodations as other workers with similar abilities and limitations.
Also, our sister organization, Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), provides guidance on how to amend federal law to grant full protection to women. Learn more in their 2020 Working for Women Report.