January 10, 2013 — "U.S. employers are not required to make even minimal accommodations for pregnant women, leaving many with no choice but to leave a job that they truly want or need," write JoAnne Fischer and Bette Begleiter -- executive director and deputy executive director, respectively, of the Maternity Care Coalition -- in an opinion piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer's "The Public's Health."
Although "women won the right not to be treated adversely because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, and the right to be treated at least as well as other employees" when the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was enacted in 1978, it has "become clear during the intervening years that [the law] failed to adequately protect women," according to Fischer and Begleiter.
According to the authors, a "loophole" in the law protects pregnant women "from being treated differently than other workers" but does not require employers "to make reasonable accommodations" for pregnant employees, which leaves women vulnerable to firings or other repercussions if they request job modifications because of pregnancy.
In the last Congress, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) sponsored the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (S 3565, HR 5647) to "close the loophole and strengthen the 1978 law." However, the bills "never made it out of committee," Fischer and Begleiter explain.
Fischer and Begleiter urge Congress to reintroduce and pass the legislation, concluding, "We need to ensure that our pregnant citizens have the protections in the workplace that they need to support their -- and their babies' -- optimal health and well-being" (Begleiter/Fischer, "The Public's Health," Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/8).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership