Attorney General James Urges U.S. Senate To Strengthen Protections For Pregnant Individuals And Families

December 23, 2021

New York Attorney General Letitia James today led a coalition of 15 attorneys general from Harlem to Hawaii in calling on the U.S. Senate to protect pregnant individuals and families by passing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA).

The PWFA secures the rights of pregnant individuals to be provided reasonable accommodations at work without fear of being pushed out of their jobs.

In their letter, Attorney General James and the coalition urge the U.S. Senate to support the ability for Americans to thrive in the workforce.

“No person should ever have to choose between paying their bills and a safe pregnancy, yet pregnant workers, especially low-income individuals and communities of color, are forced to make that choice every day,” said Attorney General James. “Federal laws do not go far enough in protecting expecting parents or their rights in the workplace, but the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act makes it clear to employers that they cannot force pregnant workers off the job or deny them reasonable accommodations. I strongly urge the U.S. Senate to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act because when parents thrive, so do their families, our businesses, and our communities.”

Currently, despite both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in place, pregnant workers are not fully protected under the law.

Reasonable accommodations under the ADA are available only to qualified individuals living with disabilities, including those disabilities related to pregnancy.

Reasonable accommodations can include, but are not limited to, sitting instead of standing, taking more regular breaks, and temporarily avoiding certain activities, like heavy lifting.

Individuals in low-paying jobs are disproportionately people of color and those individuals are also more likely to be denied reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy due to the culture and demands of low-paying workplaces.

In her letter to U.S. Senate leadership, Attorney General James and the coalition strongly urge the Senate pass the PFWA because it is needed to prevent pregnant workers from being forced out of their jobs or forced into taking unwanted leave.

The PWFA — which is closely modeled after the ADA — would prohibit employment practices that discriminate against employees making requests for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, and would make it clear to both workers and employers what rights and obligations need to be fulfilled under the law.

Additionally, the bill would not require a pregnant employee to prove that another employee in a similar situation had also received accommodations in order to obtain their own accommodation.

Joining Attorney General James in sending today’s letter to Senate leadership are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

This matter was handled by Senior Policy and Legislative Advisor Melanie Weniger of the Executive Decision, which is overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

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