President Obama Stands Up for Pregnant Workers
It’s a pretty special day when you get a shout-out from the President. And yesterday, at the White House Summit on Working Families, pregnant workers got that shout-out. Twenty-first century families need 21st century workplaces, the President said:
That means treating pregnant workers fairly, because too many are forced to choose between their health and their job. Right now, if you’re pregnant you could potentially get fired for taking too many bathroom breaks—clearly from a boss who has never been pregnant—or forced [onto] unpaid leave. That makes no sense.
Of course, the President is right. (And as someone who was lucky enough to be there in person, I can attest that these remarks got a huge cheer inside the standing-room-only event.) Right now, when pregnant workers have a medical need for a temporary accommodation, too often bosses say no, even when they provide accommodations to workers who need them because of disabilities or injuries. Pregnant workers are then faced with a choice no one should have to make, between ignoring their doctor’s advice and putting their jobs at risk. But luckily there’s a solution at hand, as the President made clear, when he urged, “Congress should pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act without delay.”
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would make it unmistakably clear that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to workers who have a medical need for them arising out of pregnancy, just like they already provide reasonable accommodations to workers who need them because of disability. And with the President’s statements yesterday, it just got a key new supporter, with a loud voice and a bully pulpit.
Yesterday, the President also noted, “Many of these issues, they’re not partisan until they get to Washington. Back home, to folks sitting around the kitchen table, this isn’t partisan.” When it comes to fairness for pregnant workers, this is indisputably true. That’s why since 2013, states and cities around the country have passed their own laws guaranteeing fair treatment for pregnant workers, with bipartisan and often unanimous support, in New Jersey, and West Virginia, and Minnesota, and Illinois, and Maryland, and New York City, and Philadelphia, and we hope this week in Delaware. (And yesterday, in other good news for pregnant workers, the Administration also announced that the Department of Labor is creating a new online resource to give pregnant workers state-by-state information about their legal rights, which will help ensure that the women who need them know about these protections.) That’s also why polling shows stratospheric levels of support for strengthening protections to ensure that women don’t lose their job when they become pregnant, regardless of political party.
As the President made clear, it’s time for Congress to catch up with the rest of the country and pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The due date for this commonsense, common ground solution is now.