Will U.S. employers be responsive to the newly implemented Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which provides certain protections to pregnant workers? It is obviously too soon to tell, but many workers and their families remain optimistic.
After years of debate among Washington lawmakers, federal protections for pregnant workers are finally in place. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act took effect on Dec. 29 with President Biden’s signing of a $1.7 trillion spending bill.
Reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers
The new law requires employers with at least 15 employees to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. Previously, such employer accommodations were only available to workers with injuries or medical conditions
Among those accommodations include:
- Placing restrictions on the lifting objects and people
- Providing pregnant workers with stools or chairs if their job requires them to be on their feet for a great length of time
- Allowing water breaks and letting pregnant employees keep a water bottle near their work areas
Such issues have drawn great attention within the retail and manufacturing sectors.
Many states well ahead of the federal government
When employers do not provide these necessary accommodations, pregnant workers often get pushed out of the labor force, losing critically needed income. Many of these workers are women in low-wage jobs such as cashiers, waitresses, retail salespeople, maids, housekeepers and nurse’s aides. According to the National Women’s Law Center, nearly 21% of pregnant workers are in low-wage jobs.
For the last decade, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has drawn attention from U.S. lawmakers but never came to fruition until now. Actually, the federal government fell far behind many states that implemented laws addressing accommodations for pregnant workers years ago. Such laws are in place in an estimated 25 states, including California, which passed its law in 1999.
Know your rights
If you are a pregnant worker, know your rights and understand that your employer must provide you with reasonable accommodations at your workplace.