I imagine that most people believe that pregnant women are provided with accommodations needed to perform their job, but this cannot be further from the truth. The recently introduced Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), by Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), seeks to remedy this injustice and would require employers to make workplace accommodations available for pregnant women that current Federal and New York law requires them to make for people with disabilities, so long as the accommodation does not amount to an undue burden on the employer.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), these are called “reasonable accommodations,” designed so that employees with disabilities can perform the job functions they were hired to do.
Essentially, the purpose of the PWFA is to 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.
Under the Federal, New York State and New York City Human Rights Law, pregnancy, is not considered a disability. The only legal projection pregnant women are currently provided is under the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the parallel New York laws, which makes it illegal to fire a woman because she becomes pregnant. However, employers can still refuse to accommodate pregnant women’s basic, fundamental needs at work, such as barring a pregnant employee from going on light-duty because she is unable to carry heavy objects, or denying the pregnant woman’s right to carry around a water bottle to ensure her and her growing baby is sufficiently hydrated. The Federal and New York laws, as they currently stand, are essentially forcing pregnant women to pick between their job and ensuring the health of their unborn child and themselves. This is a choice a woman should not be compelled to make, as it goes against the universal view that a pregnancy is a blessing and should be nurtured, not jeopardized because of an employer’s discriminatory prerogative.
This PWFA has a long journey ahead and because of the divisive nature and makeup of the current Congress, it is not likely to become law. However, you have a voice, so let it be heard. Speak out to your elected officials and come November, vote with the PWFA in mind.
As always, if you believe you or your family member was and/or has been discriminated against in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact the employment discrimination attorneys at the Law Office of Risman & Risman, P.C. at (212) 233-6400 or contact us online.