ACLU Applauds Senate Passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act
These bills will expand and protect rights for pregnant and nursing workers forced to choose between their health and their job
(Washington, D.C.) Today, the Senate passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act with a bipartisan majority as part of the omnibus spending bill.
Once signed by President Biden, PWFA would make clear that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees — such as schedule changes or a break from heavy lifting — that would enable them to stay in the workforce while maintaining a healthy pregnancy. The PUMP Act would provide protections to the 9 million women who were excluded from the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law passed in 2010 and require employers to provide workers who are nursing with reasonable time and private space to pump breast milk.
“These bills are a historic step forward to a future where no worker must choose between their job, a healthy pregnancy, or breastfeeding their babies,” said Vania Leveille, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU. “More than forty years after the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, pregnant workers continue to be denied their fundamental right to reasonable accommodations, particularly women of color and those in low-wage jobs. We look forward to President Biden signing these common-sense measures to protect the economic and physical well-being of pregnant and nursing workers.”
Women make up nearly 60% of the workforce and the majority work during their pregnancies and many want to continue breastfeeding when they return to work. Yet, today, pregnant workers, especially women in low-wage and physically demanding jobs, are still being punished for being pregnant. And when they do return to work, many are forced to stop breastfeeding.
Pregnant employees are routinely denied temporary job accommodations they need to have a healthy pregnancy – like schedule changes or a break from heavy lifting – even when coworkers who aren’t pregnant receive such accommodations. Pregnant workers continue to be fired, forced to quit, or put on unpaid leave when they ask their employer for temporary modifications of their job duties so that they can keep working. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act addresses this problem by making it clear that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees.
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Today, gender bias continues to create huge barriers for many women. Ongoing struggles include ensuring equal economic opportunities, educational equity, and an end to gender-based violence.