This week members of the House and Senate introduced legislation designed to improve protections for pregnant and nursing employees. On Tuesday lawmakers reintroduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 1975, S. 942), a bill that would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees and job applicants as well as those with limitations related to childbirth. Modeled after provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would institute certain anti-discrimination and retaliation protections for workers who request a reasonable accommodation related to their pregnancy, childbirth, or associated medical conditions, and prevent employers from requiring that a pregnant employee take leave if she could perform her job with a reasonable accommodation. The bill would also make it unlawful for an employer to require an applicant or employee affected by pregnancy or childbirth to accept a particular accommodation.
The same rights and remedies afforded by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act would apply to any violations of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Public sector employees would be given similar remedies available under related civil rights statutes. Finally, the measure would direct the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to issue regulations implementing the law within two years of the bill’s enactment.
The second measure introduced this week would expand the pool of employees who receive certain nursing mother rights. The Affordable Care Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require employers with 50 or more employees to provide rest breaks and space for non-exempt employees who are nursing mothers to express breast milk. The Supporting Working Moms Act (H.R. 1941, S. 934) would include salaried workers by amending Section 13 of the FLSA. According to a press release:
Current law provides mothers who are classified as non-exempt employees with reasonable break times to express milk in a private, non-bathroom environment while at work. The Supporting Working Moms Act would expand this provision to cover approximately 12 million salaried women who work in traditional office environments. Employers are not required to compensate an employee for the break time to express milk, and an employer with fewer than 50 employees who is unable to meet the requirements under the provision is exempt if it would pose an undue hardship.
All of these bills have been referred to committee.