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Protecting pregnant workers through A Better Balance

The House of Representatives passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in a bipartisan move yesterday. Now the Senate needs to approve it.

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A Better Balance is an organization that aims to “make our society more hospitable to families by promoting and supporting policies that would allow parents to remain in the workforce without compromising the wellbeing of their families,” and the leader in the Pregnant Workers Fairness Movement. 

The PWFA, which was the product of the movement, would provide pregnant workers the ability to request reasonable accommodations to stay safe and healthy in their workplace unless it caused undue hardship on the employer.

The bill passed with bipartisan support through the House on Sept. 17.

“In 2020, the mistreatment of pregnant women is a stain on our country and sends the message that we don’t value pregnancy or motherhood,” said Dina Bakst, the co-president and co-founder of A Better Balance said in a statement following the passage of PWFA.  

She went on to recount the daily stories she hears from pregnant women, predominantly women of color, who were being fired or pushed out of their work because they needed to better accommodate their pregnancy.

“Changes that can sometimes mean the difference between a healthy pregnancy or a miscarriage,” said Bakst.

She was at the congressional hearing and testified in favor of PWFA, noting that the act was long overdue, and its absence was failing pregnant workers. 

Elizabeth Gedmark,Vice President of A Better Balance, spoke with AL DÍA to give  more insight about the movement. 

She  shared that although it's taken a long time to get federal legislation, they have seen momentum at the federal level and mounting support over several reintroductions. 

Part of PWFA’s mission is to clear up ambiguities left by the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

“The problem with the 1978 act is that it is required employers treat pregnant workers the same as others, and that is a very strenuous requirement that you have to find someone else and identify them as being given accommodations in order to get accommodations yourself,” she said.

In other words, there was no difference drawn between a pregnant worker and those that dealt with other medical conditions.

When it comes to pregnant workers rights, there is currently a confusing patchwork.. 

“It is extremely difficult to understand for employers, employees, line managers who are trying to make these determinations. Even for us when we are counseling individuals and telling them what their legal rights are is tough in figuring out where they stand,” said Gedmark.

However, in the 30 states where there is legal protection on pregnant workers, Gedmark notes it is much simpler. 

“Do you have a reasonable need for accommodation? It is yes or no,” she said. 

PWFA brings that to the federal level.

Enforcement will consist of informal resolutions and conversations between employees and their employers. 

The way it is laid out, employers will be clear about their legal obligations.

Finally, the act would especially help women of color because they face a multitude of layer of discrimination in the workplace.  

“Oftentimes WOC are concentrated in lower wage positions or in positions typically demanding,” said Gedmark. “So there is a need for workers to assert their rights and request things reasonable accommodations for their health.” 

The act would facilitate those essential accommodations. 

The PWFA is on its way to the Senate with its support from over 128 organizations.

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