Republican Senators Will Sponsor A Bill To Protect Pregnant Workers For The First Time Ever

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) CREDIT: AP
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) CREDIT: AP

On Thursday, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) will reintroduce the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), a bill aimed at helping pregnant employees stay safely on the job. For the first time ever, however, it will get Republican sponsorship from Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH) and Dean Heller (NV), a Congressional staffer told ThinkProgress.

The PWFA requires employers to offer their pregnant workers small changes so that they can keep working safely unless they can prove it would impose undue hardship on their businesses. Those accommodations could include switching from heavy lifting to light duty, more frequent bathroom breaks, or simply a stool to sit on.

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Today, two-thirds of first-time mothers work during their pregnancies, 80 percent of whom stay until their last month. Yet an estimated quarter million women are denied these changes every year, while even more say they don’t ask because they’re afraid of risking their jobs. Some women have ended up miscarrying, while others have been forced onto unpaid leave or fired when they asked for and were denied an accommodation. The Supreme Court recently sided with Peggy Young, a former UPS employee who was put on unpaid leave instead of being given light duty during her pregnancy.

The Republican support comes after the PWFA was included in a vote-o-rama of budget amendments in March and got unanimous support. The bill has been introduced as its own piece of legislation multiple times in past years but only had Democratic sponsorship and didn’t advance.

Meanwhile, states have advanced their own versions of the bill: 14 and Washington, D.C. require employers to give pregnant employees reasonable accommodations.