WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) this week helped pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bipartisan bill he cosponsored that establishes pregnant workers’ clear-cut right to reasonable workplace accommodations, so that no woman has to choose between a healthy pregnancy and keeping her job.
There is currently no federal law that explicitly and affirmatively 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, Gottheimer said.
“With the House passing this vital bipartisan bill, we are taking long overdue steps to both help combat pregnancy discrimination and to protect the health, the economic security, and the rights of pregnant workers here in New Jersey and across the country,” Gottheimer said. “It’s completely ridiculous that anyone should have to choose between having a healthy pregnancy and a paycheck. I’m now urging the Senate to pass this critical bipartisan bill so that we can finally put these protections in place.”
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has broad support from more than 200 worker advocates, civil rights groups, and the business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In a recent survey of voters across the country, 89 percent said they support the proposal, including 81 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of Independents, and 96 percent of Democrats, Gottheimer said.
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 back pay awards, 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.