Murkowski Joins Introduction of Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Bill Proposes Protections Against Workplace Discrimination

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in introducing the bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to protect pregnant workers and new mothers from workplace discrimination. This legislation, which is closely modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), would require employers with 15 or more employees to make reasonable accommodations to allow employees who are pregnant, have recently given birth, or who have related medical conditions to continue working safely unless it would pose an undue hardship to the employer. Such accommodations, which are often no-cost or low-cost, include additional bathroom breaks, light duty, a stool to sit on if an employee stands all day, and time to express breast milk in private.  It would also prevent women from being forced out on leave or out of their jobs. 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.  The bill includes protections not already codified in the ADA or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).

A one pager on the bill is available here.

“I have heard from many Alaskans about the need to provide for the health of pregnant women. 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. 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. This bill will improve federal law by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for expecting and new mothers and ensure that women are not discriminated against simply because of pregnancy or childbirth,” said Senator Murkowski. “I’m proud to promote policies that empower women and support women’s health and the health of their babies.”

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has garnered strong support from Alaskan stakeholders.

“We applaud the bipartisan introduction of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and thank Senator Murkowski for her leadership. When a pregnant worker is fired or forced to take unpaid leave because her employer refuses to provide a temporary job modification, the economic impact can be severe. If she continues working because she cannot afford not to, the health consequences can be devastating. Pregnant workers in Alaska should not have to make this choice. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will protect the working women of Alaska, especially those in physically demanding and male-dominated jobs, and those who work in rural areas and lack easy access to health care professionals necessary to maintain a healthy pregnancy. PWFA is a dire necessity to safeguard women’s health and economic security and we are eager to work with Senator Murkowski to pass this important legislation,”  said Michael Garvey, Advocacy Director of ACLU of Alaska.

“The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a step forward to ensuring women and soon to be arriving children start off on the right foot,” said Trevor Storrs, President and CEO of the Alaska Children’s Trust. “Pregnant workers are being pushed out of their jobs, or forced to risk their health, when all they need is a modest accommodation. This Act ensures equity for women, reduces risk to the babies, and ensure economic security for families.”

“Especially in rural and remote areas of Alaska, pregnant workers should be able to work with their employers to make minor adjustments to the job environment that accounts for the health of their pregnancy. Too often, I hear from women who are required to stand on their feet all day, can’t carry a water bottle, or have to lift heavy objects while at their job, when simple accommodations by their employer could remove these job tasks that risk adverse pregnancy outcomes. No worker should have to choose between the success of their pregnancy and their paycheck,” said Hilary Fello, Registered Dietitian and Certified Lactation Counselor in Nome, Alaska. “The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a targeted, bipartisan effort to strengthen protections for pregnant workers. We thank Senator Murkowski for championing these necessary reforms that will lead to healthier births in Alaska and nationwide.”

Senator Murkowski’s colleagues, in introducing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, stated:

“No one deserves to be shut out of a job due to their pregnancy. Worker health and safety is non-negotiable and we need to make it a priority for everyone,” said Senator Casey. “At a time when women have been forced out of the workforce in unprecedented numbers as a result of the pandemic, this legislation is more important than ever to ensure that we are removing barriers to women’s full and complete participation in the workforce. I urge my colleagues to move this legislation forward so that we can prevent discrimination against the many women in the workforce who are entering motherhood, and ensure that anyone who wants to work can do so safely.”

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

“Securing equality in the workplace and empowering working families demands meaningful policy change to meet the standards American workers deserve. That’s why I’m glad to join Senator Casey on this legislation to support expectant mothers and their families,” said Senator Shaheen. “The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a critical step forward to end pregnancy discrimination and provide protections for expectant mothers in accessing accommodations at work without fear of retaliation, bias or being unfairly forced out of their jobs. I appreciate the bipartisan determination to move this bill forward and will continue to push lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to join us in this effort.”

“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. West Virginia has been ahead of the game when it comes to this issue, and I’m proud to help introduce this legislation at the federal level to make these commonsense changes for women across the rest of the country.”

“Pregnant workers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace, and this bill would help ensure they can access reasonable accommodations,” said Senator Smith. “It is a critical step towards truly ending pregnancy discrimination in our workplaces, which threatens women’s economic opportunity and freedom. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is one of the many steps Congress should take to support working families.”

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is also supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, Society for Human Resource Management, the the H.R. Policy Association, and many other groups. 

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