Congresswoman Nikema Williams Statement on the Passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05) issued the following statement after passing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Thisbipartisan bill was cosponsored by Congresswoman Williams and establishes a pregnant worker’s clear-cut right to reasonable workplace accommodations, provided they do not impose an undue burden on their employer. There is currently no federal law that explicitly and affirmatively guarantees all pregnant workers the right to basic accommodations – such as appropriate seating, water breaks, and relief from heavy lifting – so they can continue working without jeopardizing their pregnancy.
“From being paid less than men for the same work to not having federal protections while pregnant, women are constantly treated as second-class workers,” said Congresswoman Williams. “But I am in Congress to be a force for justice and that means passing commonsense legislation like the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act that improves the lives of women in the workforce everywhere.”
The House vote comes as COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten workers’ health and safety, particularly for pregnant workers who may be at increased risk of severe illness from the virus. Women comprise 64 percent of frontline workers.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has broad support from more than 250 worker advocates, civil rights groups, and the business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In a recent survey of voters across the country, 89 percent said they support the proposal, including 81 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of Independents, and 96 percent of Democrats.
Under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act:
- Private sector employers with more than 15 employees as well as 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).
- Similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are not required to make an accommodation if it imposes an undue hardship on an employer’s business.
- Pregnant workers cannot be denied employment opportunities, retaliated against for requesting a reasonable accommodation, or forced 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.
- Public sector employees have similar relief available under the Congressional Accountability Act, Title V of the United States Code, and the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991.