Pregnant Workers Fairness Act on the table again

Among the recommendations from the Summit on Working Families is the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

As families across Texas know, balancing work and family life can be a struggle. In an effort to bring the United States in line with other developed countries, the Obama administration recently rolled out its plan to improve policies affecting families in the workforce, including pregnant workers.

The Summit on Working Families will address many issues facing families with working parents in the United States, including increasing flexibility in the workplace, providing greater access to affordable childcare and protecting pregnant workers from discrimination on the job.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is one of the measures supported by the White House to increase protections for pregnant employees. The act was introduced in Congress during the last legislative session, but was never passed into law.

Under the proposed legislation, qualifying employers would be required to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees, so long as the accommodations did not pose an undue hardship to the business.

Current federal law for pregnant workers

As of now, federal law does not require employers to provide accommodations to pregnant workers. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits employers from treating pregnant workers differently from other employees; however, it does not require accommodations - such as increased bathroom breaks or light duty work - be made to encourage their continued employment during pregnancy.

While protections for pregnant workers could be better across the country, statistics show pregnant employees are safeguarding their rights in greater numbers. From 1997 to 2011, the number of pregnancy-based discrimination claims rose by about 50 percent in the United States.

The Summit on Working Families is also introducing the idea of offering paid maternity leave in the U.S. Currently, under the Family Medical Leave Act - or FMLA - employees working for qualified employers are guaranteed 12 weeks of protected unpaid leave following the birth of a child.

While some employers voluntarily offer their employees some amount of paid time off following the birth of a child, no government program exists to ensure working families are financially able to take time off to care for a newborn. The Department of Labor is providing funding for five states to determine whether they could implement a paid leave program.

If you believe you have been discriminated against due to a pregnancy, you should take steps to protect your rights and your employment. In such cases, it is a wise idea to promptly discuss your situation with a skilled employment law attorney, who will take action to ensure your interests are protected.

Keywords: Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, pregnancy, discrimination, FMLA