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Kuster-Backed Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Protections for Pregnant Workers Passes House

Today, the House passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bipartisan bill cosponsored by Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02) that establishes a pregnant worker’s clear-cut right to reasonable workplace accommodations, provided they do not impose an undue burden on their employer. 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.

“I’m proud of our bipartisan work to pass this legislation to ensure that pregnant employees have the right to reasonable workplace accommodations,” said Rep. Kuster. “When pregnant women are forced to work without these protections, the outcome can be tragic. This commonsense legislation provides necessary, long-overdue safeguards for pregnant workers. Pregnant women are at heightened risk of serious complications from COVID-19, so these protections are more important than ever as the virus continues to spread in communities across the country. I urge the Senate to swiftly take up this bipartisan bill.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten workers’ health and safety, particularly for pregnant workers who may be at increased risk of severe illness from the virus. Women comprise 64 percent of frontline workers. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has broad support from more than 200 worker advocates, civil rights groups, and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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 reasonable accommodations 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 lost pay, 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

Read more about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act here.