The legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lives on as lawmakers seek fairness for pregnant workers

Discord lies ahead in the coming weeks as 100 Senators will indeed wage a fierce battle to address the new Supreme Court opening that the passing of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday created. Yet, there was still harmonic support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for this champion of equal rights.

If you made a word cloud from the remarks of politicians, words like “trailblazer,” “icon,” “integrity” would loom largest. Maybe not quite as large, I focused on the word “indelible”; as in, Justice Ginsburg made an indelible mark on workplace issues such as gender and sex discrimination, diversity, and inclusion. These are issues that, regardless of politics, we must continue to address.

Although lawmakers often disagree on how to promote equality at work, there are times when proposed changes receive bipartisan support. One such bill is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which the House passed on Thursday in a 329-73 vote. Additionally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports the legislation. SHRM and the ACLU support it too.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would establish that:

  • Private-sector employers with more than 15 employees and public sector employers must make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers (employees and job applicants with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions).
  • Like the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers need not accommodate if it imposes an undue hardship on an employer’s business.
  • Employers cannot deny pregnant workers employment opportunities, retaliate against them for requesting a reasonable accommodation, or force them to take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation is available.
  • Workers denied a reasonable accommodation under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will have the same rights and remedies as those established under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These include lost pay, compensatory damages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will provide examples of reasonable accommodations that the employer must provide to affected job applicants or employees unless the employer can demonstrate that doing so would impose an undue hardship.

Think of it as the Americans with Disabilities Act for substantial limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The end goal is to ensure that pregnant women have the maximum opportunity to continue to work, support themselves and their families.

I’ll keep you updated as the bill makes its way through the Senate.



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