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Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Passes Committee, Vote in House Expected

September 15, 2020 by Reece Nations

WASHINGTON – A vote is expected in the House this week on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bill that would require employers to provide “reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.”

The act, introduced in May 2019 by Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., would make it unlawful for employers to “fail to make reasonable accommodations” unless such an accommodation would inflict “undue hardship on an entity’s business operation.”

Workers who are denied opportunities for employment based on the need for reasonable accommodations are also protected, and employers cannot foist an unwanted accommodation onto an employee or applicant “if such accommodation is unnecessary to perform the job.” 

Further, an employer cannot force its employees to take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided, and retaliatory actions against employees for requesting such accommodations are prohibited by the bill.

Nadler’s proposed legislation would ascribe “enforcement procedures and remedies under various statutes that cover different types of employees in relation to such unlawful employment practices,” the bill’s summary read. 

Also, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is required to give examples of “reasonable accommodations” to be provided by employers to affected individuals, unless the employer can prove that doing so would saddle them with an “undue hardship.”

While the bill passed through its committees largely along party lines, two Republicans also voted in its favor. Reps. James Comer, R-Ky., and Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., joined their Democratic colleagues in voting to pass the bill through its committee designations.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce circulated a letter Monday urging House members to pass the legislation. The letter, signed by the chamber’s Senior Vice President of Congressional and Public Affairs, Jack Howard, notes that “The Chamber worked extensively with advocates for this bill to find bipartisan agreement.”

“This important bill is a reminder that through good faith negotiations, legislative solutions to important questions and problems can be achieved,” the text of the letter continued. “We urge the House to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.”

A vote in the House is expected on Thursday, Sept. 17.

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