Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) have co-sponsored a bill called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The bill would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees so that they could continue to work during their pregnancies. Employers have to provide similar accommodations to employees with disabilities and this law would utilize that same accommodation process for pregnant employees.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act could require, for instance, an employer to permit a pregnant worker to carry a water bottle with her so that she can drink the amount of water that her doctor recommends. Similarly, it could require an employer to let a pregnant worker who would normally stand to do her job, such as a cashier, to sit on a stool instead.
Senators Shaheen and Ayotte recognize that the Supreme Court issued a ruling earlier this year in a case where a pregnant UPS worker required an accommodation but the Senators believe that the Court’s decision left too many unanswered questions. They believe that this law will make it clear for both employers and workers that pregnant workers are entitled to reasonable accommodations.
“Working while pregnant is a part of life for many women, as it was for us” said Shaheen and Ayotte in a joint editorial. “In many cases, families simply can’t afford to put food on the table unless the mother continues to work during her pregnancy. In New Hampshire, about 70 percent of women who gave birth in 2013 also worked during their pregnancies, compared to the national average of 62 percent. With the vast majority of women working while pregnant, ensuring that pregnant workers are treated equally is essential to working families and our economy.”
Maine’s Senators, Susan Collins and Angus King, have not yet signed on as co-sponsors of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has co-sponsored the version of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in the House but Congressman Bruce Poliquin has not.