This week, the House passed H.R. 2694, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bipartisan bill cosponsored by Congresswoman Jahana Hayes. This legislation establishes a pregnant worker’s right to reasonable workplace accommodations, provided they do not impose an unnecessary burden on their employer. Currently, there is no federal law which explicitly guarantees all pregnant workers the right to basic accommodations – such as appropriate seating, water breaks, and relief from heavy lifting – so they can continue working without jeopardizing their pregnancy.
“With the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, women will get the reasonable protections they deserve in order to have a healthy pregnancy while continuing to work,” Congresswoman Hayes said. “Women are an essential component of our workforce and Congress should do everything to support expectant working mothers, supporting their families and contributing to the economy.”
“Pregnant workers face discrimination in the workplace, which is an intolerable disadvantage to working families in Connecticut and across the country,” said Congresswoman Hayes.
The House vote comes as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten workers’ health and safety, particularly for pregnant workers who may be at increased risk of severe illness from the virus. Women comprise 64 percent of frontline workers.
Under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act:
- Private sector employers with more than 15 employees, as well as public sector employers, must make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers (employees and job applicants with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions).
- Similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are not required to make an accommodation if it imposes an undue hardship on an employer’s business.
- Pregnant workers cannot be denied employment opportunities, retaliated against for requesting a reasonable accommodation, or forced to take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation is available.
- Workers denied a reasonable accommodation under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will have the same rights and remedies as those established under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These include lost pay, compensatory damages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
- Public sector employees have similar relief available under the Congressional Accountability Act, Title V of the United States Code, and the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991.
Rep. Jahana Hayes has been a public school teacher in Connecticut for more than 15 years
and was recognized in 2016 as the National Teacher of the Year.
Currently serving her first term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Hayes sits on the Committees on Education & Labor and Agriculture and proudly represents Connecticut’s 5th District.