Women make up almost half of our nation’s labor force, and 40 percent of women are the sole or primary breadwinners for their families.*
When women choose to have children, their employers should respect that choice, not discriminate against them. This means accommodating the needs of pregnant women at work.
We scored a huge victory for women in Massachusetts with the passage of An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Worker Fairness Act (PWFA) which protects pregnant workers from workplace discrimination and losing their jobs. This bill guarantees that all workers are treated fairly by requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing workers. Here’s why we needed it:
- Over half of all pregnant women and new mothers in Massachusetts are in the labor force and earning income to support their families.
- Three-quarters of women entering the workforce in our country will be pregnant and employed at some point in their lives. Some of these women—especially those in physically strenuous jobs—will face a conflict between their duties at work and the demands of pregnancy.
- Pregnant women are pushed out of their jobs and often treated worse than other employees with similar limitations because the law does not guarantee reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and childbirth.
- A pregnant Massachusetts woman was not allowed to take breaks to sit—even after she fainted multiple times at her job.
- A pregnant factory worker was kicked out of her job after she asked to avoid overtime temporarily upon her doctor’s orders.
- A supermarket employee was pushed onto disability leave when she asked for a temporary reprieve from heavy lifting while pregnant. The disability payments and her health insurance ended one month before she gave birth.
Before the passage of the PWFA, pregnant women in Massachusetts were being shut out of the workforce simply for needing a bottle of water at their desk, a chair to sit on or even an extra bathroom break during the workday.
Discrimination also affects women who are seeking new employment, as pregnant job applicants may fear that disclosing their pregnancy could cost them the job. When employers do not provide reasonable accommodations for expectant mothers, women can be forced to choose between a paycheck and starting or growing their family.
* Pew Research Center, Breadwinner Moms