Tell Congress to End Discrimination Against Pregnant Workers

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 1065) would require employers to provide reasonable, temporary accommodations to pregnant workers so that they can remain in the workforce throughout their pregnancies. Each year, thousands of pregnant workers are denied minor accommodations—such as more frequent bathroom breaks or being allowed to carry a water bottle—that would enable them to continue working during their pregnancies. Pregnant workers who do not have the protection of pregnancy accommodations face unpaid leave, lost benefits, or even termination, forcing them to make the agonizing choice between protecting the health of their pregnancy and continuing to work to support themselves and their families. Especially in the time before welcoming a new child to the family, it is reprehensible that pregnant workers face this impossible decision.

Urge your members of Congress to support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 1065).

Background

Despite existing laws, pregnant workers are too often forced to choose between their jobs and the health of their pregnancies. This widespread discrimination results in thousands of pregnant workers being denied minor accommodations that range from reassigning a worker to a desk job if their usual job requires heavy lifting, to allowing someone to carry a water bottle on the sales floor, to accommodating a person’s need for regular pre-natal medical visits. During a time of widespread economic hardship, which has been exceptionally devastating for families with children, workers cannot afford to make the agonizing choice between their health and their paychecks.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for policies that enable workers to balance their own health, family responsibilities, and economic pressures. Nearly three million American women have left the labor force since the beginning of the pandemic, and mothers of young children have been affected most severely.

Pregnancy discrimination is also an issue of racial injustice. Because of systemic racism entrenched in our economy, Black and Latina women are overrepresented in low-wage, physically demanding jobs that are challenging for pregnant workers. Racial wealth inequality, which is exacerbated by staggering racial and gender wage gaps, makes workers of Color especially vulnerable to economic hardship if they are forced out of their jobs due to pregnancy discrimination. Meanwhile, Black women face higher rates of pregnancy discrimination, an injustice that intersects with the Black maternal health crisis and high rates of Black infant mortality.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 1065) would address the scourge of pregnancy discrimination by requiring a consultative process between employers and pregnant workers, modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act. This process would be used to determine reasonable accommodations that meet pregnant workers’ needs without imposing undue hardships on employers.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act passed the House of Representatives with overwhelmingly bipartisan support in the 116th Congress. In February 2021, Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), John Katko (R-NY), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Jaimie Herrera-Beutler (R-WA), and Lucy McBath (D-GA) reintroduced the bill. Now, Congress must pass this legislation to bring about justice for pregnant workers.

Jewish Values

Our Jewish tradition demands in the strongest possible terms the protection of all workers as a matter of justice. We are taught that “one who withholds an employee’s wages is as though he deprived him of his life” (Baba Metzia 112a). Pregnant workers who do not have the protection of pregnancy accommodations face wage withholding in the form of unpaid leave, lost benefits, or even firing—all as they are about to welcome a new child into the family. Our Jewish tradition compels us to not be complacent in the face of economic injustice, but instead to advocate for policies that help to ensure economic stability for everyone in our society.

Our sacred texts speak to the importance and sacred nature of work—an opportunity to be co-creators with God. Maimonides, a revered Jewish scholar, listed health care first on his list of the ten most important communal services that a city had to offer to its residents (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot IV: 23). From this teaching, we learn that protecting health is not just an obligation for a patient and a doctor, but rather, is a key service for a community to provide to its residents.

For more information, please contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Courtney Cooperman at (202) 796-6503.

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