While there is a lot of joy in welcoming a new baby into the world, there is no denying that pregnancy is a major medical event. It is not surprising that many pregnant women in California need further accommodations to keep them happy and healthy in the workplace. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act — new legislation that was recently passed by The House of Representatives — aims to protect women from workplace discrimination and to make sure that they have the accommodations they need.
Employers are already supposed to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees, but many women say they experienced the exact opposite. Pregnant women have been fired for even the simplest of accommodations, such as needing to keep a water bottle on hand to avoid developing a bladder infection. Bosses have also fired pregnant women who asked for physical accommodations or who needed their shifts to be limited to eight hours. In June 2020, one woman even suffered a miscarriage after her employer refused to provide reasonable accommodations.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act builds additional protections on top of the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. It also offers further protection for women who are already marginalized because of their race or class. This is particularly important as the maternal and infant mortality rates have been climbing in the United States, and women of color are as much as three times higher to experience pregnancy-related deaths.
The next generation of California workers would not exist without pregnant women, so protecting their health and dignity in the workplace is essential. Unfortunately, that does not always mean that it is easy. Holding employers responsible for acts of workplace discrimination can be a good first step toward protecting future workers.