The two houses of Congress are considering legislation that would require updated protections for pregnant women in the workplace. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would require an employer to provide a pregnant employee or job applicant with “reasonable accommodations,” so long as the accommodations do not interfere with the job. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 5647 in the House and S. 3565 in the Senate) was introduced by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) on May 8, 2012, and Senator Robert Casey on September 19, 2012. Each bill has been referred to committee.
The Act would make it an unlawful employment practice for certain public and private employers to not make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of a job applicant or employee, unless a covered entity can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of such covered entity. In addition, a covered entity may not require such a job applicant or employee to accept an accommodation she chooses not to accept. Furthermore, a covered entity may not require an employee to take leave under any leave law or policy of the covered entity if another reasonable accommodation can be provided to the known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of the employee.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would issue regulations no later than two years after the date of enactment of this Act.
Expectant mothers currently are protected under the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, a federal law that makes it illegal to fire a woman because she is pregnant. However, the law does not cover the medical limitations and requirements which may prevent a pregnant woman from completely performing her job duties, since pregnancy is not considered a disability under the law.