HR News & Trends, Legal Issues

Why Does Congress Think We Need a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?

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By Eric B. Meyer

Earlier this week, Representatives Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, Carolyn Maloney D-NY, Jackie Speier D-CA, and Susan Davis D-CA, introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

What’s in the bill and how will it affect employers?

According to a press release from Rep. Nadler, the focus of the bill is on employers affording reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers and applicants:

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will .. .[require] employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and [prevent] employers from forcing women out on leave when another reasonable accommodation would allow them to continue working. The bill also bars employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”

Pregnancy accommodations are already required

Like many others who represent employers, I’m left scratching my head. Over at the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, Jon Hyman questioned the need for this legislation in light of how employers are already perform under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act:

Unless you are among the tiniest minority of employers that provides no accommodations for any employees’ medical issues or injuries, then the PDA already requires you to accommodate your employees’ pregnancies.”

Jon is right. The EEOC‘s Facts on Pregnancy Discrimination confirm that employers may not single out pregnant employees with respect to workplace accommodations:

If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job because of her pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, if the employer allows temporarily disabled employees to modify tasks, perform alternative assignments, or take disability leave or leave without pay, the employer also must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled because of pregnancy to do the same.”

Further, as Eve Tahmincioglu notes at CareerDiva, while pregnancy itself is not a disability, “[p]regnant women are also protected under the American With Disabilities Act if they face some sort of covered disability, or exacerbate a disability because of pregnancy.”

Do you support the bill? Sound off below. And I’ll keep you updated as it makes its way through Congress.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

Eric B. Meyer is a partner in the Labor and Employment Group of the Philadelphia-based law firm of Dilworth Paxson LLP . He dedicates his practice to litigating and assisting employers on labor and employment issues affecting the workplace, including collective bargaining, discrimination, employee handbook policies, enforcement of restrictive covenants, and trade secret protection. Eric also serves as a volunteer mediator for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Contact him at emeyer@dilworthlaw.com .
  • Tom Bolt

    In an election year, politicians run around looking for ways to leverage their actions for political gain. This is a typical election year “solution” looking for a problem. As you mention, there is very little new added to this legislation…oh, other than opponents can be derided for being against pregnant workers. Ta daaa!.

    While we are on the topic of motherhood and apple pie topics, I suggest a law preventing discrimination against apple pie. You are against it? How un-American of you to hate apple pie! It’s a gotcha year for political rhetoric, similar to the old comedian’s question, “Yes or no: have you stopped beating your wife?” There is no right answer to questions like this.