D’s and R’s (some of ’em, at least) agree: It’s time for a federal pregnancy-accommodation law


Yesterday, on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. UPS, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), brought the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act back to the Senate. The Act, which is modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, makes it an unlawful employment practice for employers to:

  1. fail to make reasonable accommodations to known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of job applicants or employees, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on such an entity’s business operation;
  2. deny employment opportunities based on the need of the entity to make such reasonable accommodations;
  3. require such job applicants or employees to accept an accommodation that they choose not to accept; or
  4. require such employees to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided to their known limitations.

Senator Casey’s prior attempts to get this bill passed have failed. However, this time he, along with Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), have some Republican support. Senators Kelly Ayotte (NH) and Dean Heller (NV) are co-sponsoring the bill. This is the first time that the Act has had Republicans co-sponsoring.

The press release from Senator Casey’s office indicates that sixty-two percent of pregnant women and new moms are in the labor force. Many states (like New Jersey) and cities (like Philadelphia) have already responded by passing pregnancy accommodation laws. And, while Young v. UPS wasn’t exactly a model of clarity in explaining when an employer has a duty to accommodate a pregnant employee, many employment lawyers, including me, lean towards advising employers to provide reasonable accommodation to pregnant workers, where accommodations are given to non-pregnant employees.

Now, we may be on the cusp of a federal law requiring reasonable accommodations pregnant employees nationwide.

By File photo, Canwest News Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons