The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: To amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to prohibiting discrimination in employment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition.
The National Organization for Women-New York City (NOW-NYC) is in strong support of The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The act would amend New York City law to prevent the discrimination of pregnant women workers by requiring their employers to provide reasonable on-the-job accommodations. Ensuring that women are free from discrimination and have equal opportunity in the workplace is a cornerstone of NOW-NYC’s mission and is vital to women’s economic equality.
We Need Strengthened Protections for Pregnant Women
Although current federal and state laws prohibit the discrimination of pregnant women in the workplace, employers are not required to make any accommodations for pregnant women unless they have a pregnancy related disability. As a result, needs that can be easily met like extra bathroom breaks, relief from standing for long hours, or access to water can become a cause for demotion, forced unpaid leave, or even termination.
Seventy-five percent of women entering the workforce will become pregnant on the job, and just over 40 percent of working mothers are their family’s primary breadwinner. The lack of comprehensive anti-discrimination protection causes significant economic harm to thousands of pregnant women and their families each year and is especially damaging to low-income and single parents. At a time when a woman needs her job more than ever (with the health and other benefits that often come with it), her livelihood is put in jeopardy.
What the Law Would Do
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would close the significant loophole in state and federal law, by requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women who provide a letter from their health care provider. The employer must comply, unless doing so would create an undue hardship. Without the legal protections this legislation would provide, pregnant women will continue to remain reluctant to ask for and receive the accommodations they need to protect their own health and maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Seven states—California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Alaska, Texas, and Illinois—already have laws requiring certain employers to provide accommodations for pregnant employees. The California law, established in 2000, is a demonstrated success. A report by Equal Rights Advocates showed that most of the accommodations requested were easily met by employers. In fact, many accommodations were found to be helpful to all employees and resulted in a positive contribution to the employer’s bottom line.
No pregnant woman should be forced to choose between her job and a healthy pregnancy. This bill is a public health and economic necessity for women and will ensure that pregnant workers are not subject to discrimination. As a leading advocate for women’s equality, NOW-NYC strongly supports this critical legislation and urges the New York City Council to pass it without delay.
(October 25, 2012)