Bill to protect pregnant workers passes U.S. Senate

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bipartisan bill to ensure pregnant workers are treated fairly on the job and have reasonable accommodations at work, passed Thursday in the United States Senate as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2023 federal appropriations bill. 

First introduced as legislation by U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) in 2012, the bill closes a loophole in the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act by requiring employers to make temporary, reasonable accommodations—like a stool or a water bottle—so that pregnant women can continue to work safely. 

Seventy five percent of pregnant women and new mothers are in the workplace and need access to reasonable accommodations. The amendment to add the bill to the spending package passed 73-24. 

Casey and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Children and Families, announced the Senate passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. 

Casey said in a statement that pregnancy should never be a barrier for women who want to stay in the workplace. “This legislation would provide commonsense protections for pregnant workers, like extra bathroom breaks or a stool for workers who stand, so they can continue working while not putting extra strain on their pregnancies.” 

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is endorsed by over 220 organizations, and Cassidy said the bill should have and could have passed overwhelmingly long ago with an up or down vote.“Regardless, this amendment ensured pregnant mothers will have the workplace accommodations they need. This is pro-mother, pro-life and pro-family.” 

Closely modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act ensures that employers with 15 or more employees provide reasonable accommodations that are often low-cost or no cost, unless it would pose an undue hardship to the employer. The bill includes protections not already codified in the ADA or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. 

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will allow pregnant workers to continue working by ensuring they can have accommodations such as additional bathroom breaks, light duty, or a stool to sit on if a worker stands all day. The bill also prohibits employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations due to childbirth or related medical conditions.