On Thursday, September 17, 2020, the United States House of Representatives passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act by a surprisingly bi-partisan majority. The bill would require companies with more than 15 employees to “make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions [unless] the accommodation would impose an undue hardship.” Employers are prohibited from making hiring and other employment decisions, such as promotions, based on an employee’s need for accommodations due to pregnancy.
The bill requires employers to engage in an interactive process to discuss any potential accommodation, similar to what is required by the American with Disabilities Act. The bill also prohibits forcing pregnant workers to take leave, whether paid or unpaid. Importantly, the bill prohibits retaliation against employees for seeking accommodations.
The law was passed in response to the 2015 United States Supreme Court ruling in Young v. UPS,
575 U.S. 206, which held that pregnant employees were entitled to accommodations under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, but made plaintiffs meet the high burden of showing that they were treated worse than employees with an “off-the-job injury or condition.”
It is crucial that pregnant women are able to seek and receive accommodations in the workplace, without fear of retaliation or reprisals. Particularly during a pandemic, first responders should be permitted to request help from their employers to continue doing their job, notwithstanding their pregnancies. Schwartz Perry & Heller supports the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act being passed by the Senate and signed into law.
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