Capito, Cassidy, Murkowski unveil bipartisan bill to protect U.S. pregnant workers

U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) last week introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting America’s pregnant workers from workplace discrimination.

On April 29 the GOP senators signed on as original cosponsors of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, S. 1486, with bill sponsor U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). If enacted, the bill would eliminate discrimination and promote women’s health and economic security by ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition, according to the text of the bill. 

“Women shouldn’t be at a professional disadvantage or health risk if they become pregnant at some point during their careers,” Senator Capito said. “The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would provide simple, but important accommodations for pregnant women in the workplace that mitigate health risks while keeping their careers on track.”

The bill is closely modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to a one-page bill summary, and would require employers to make reasonable accommodations to allow pregnant workers to continue working safely. 

For instance, S. 1486 would ensure accommodations such as additional bathroom breaks, light duty or a stool to sit on if a worker stands all day, the summary says, and the bill would prevent them from being forced out on leave or out of their jobs and prohibit employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations due to childbirth or related medical conditions.

“The astonishing truth is that many women are still denied the basic, commonsense accommodations they need at work to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby,” said Sen. Murkowski. “This is not acceptable. No employee should have to choose between keeping a job and their health or the health of their baby — it’s as simple as that.” 

Additionally, S. 1486 would ensure that employers with 15 or more employees provide reasonable accommodations that are often low-cost or no cost, unless an accommodation would pose an undue hardship to the employer.

“We need to care for and enable all Americans,” Sen. Cassidy said. “This is a double purpose for those pregnant. They contribute to our today and carry our future. This legislation is therefore a commitment to our present and our tomorrow as it cares for women who are pregnant and still working.”

The measure is supported by a wide range of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Equal Rights Advocates, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, March of Dimes, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Retail Federation, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among several others.