This week, as the country prepared to celebrate Labor Day, the National Partnership released the results of an unprecedented analysis of the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Our finding: More than three in five pregnant women in the United States (62 percent) are in the labor force. In fact, in every single state in a one-year period, the majority of women who gave birth also held jobs.
Not surprised? That’s because we all know a coworker who is or was pregnant, or a family member or friend who worked during her pregnancy. Nearly half of workers in this country are women, and our families depend on us as breadwinners as well as caregivers.
What is sobering is that many of these women are at considerable, and growing, risk of pregnancy discrimination.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was enacted in 1978, before many women who are pregnant today were even born. But discrimination in the workplace based on pregnancy is both common and increasing. In fact, in the past 10 years, pregnancy discrimination claims filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have risen by 35 percent.
It is simply unacceptable that three decades after discrimination based on pregnancy was outlawed in this country, pregnant workers are still suffering from unfair and unequal treatment. It harms women, it harms our families and it harms our economy. And it does a grave disservice to the workers and vision we honor on Labor Day.
Some of this discrimination is the result of employers refusing to make minor accommodations for pregnant workers, even though many of them regularly make accommodations for workers with other temporary health issues or limitations.
That is short-sighted and wrong. When pregnant workers are forced out of their jobs or denied minor accommodations that would allow them to continue working and providing for their families, we all lose.
In May, members of the House of Representatives sought to help solve this problem when they introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act - legislation that would prevent employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace, help ensure that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women who want to continue working and, ultimately, promote the equality that pregnant workers have long needed and deserved.
Since then, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has been endorsed by a broad coalition of organizations, including the Coalition for Quality Maternity Care, the Women’s Chamber of Commerce and many more.
The bill has 106 sponsors in the House, and we expect it to be introduced in the Senate soon. It’s a balanced and badly needed bill that would go a long way toward addressing the ongoing discrimination faced by an important segment of the workforce.
So, this Labor Day, all members of Congress should think about what’s at stake for women, families and our economy when discrimination against pregnant workers goes unaddressed – and do their part to fix the problem. Congress should move to consider the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act without delay.