Pro-business lobby endorses bill to protect pregnant workers

Pro-business lobby endorses bill to protect pregnant workers
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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed legislation to accommodate and protect pregnant workers, joining the ranks of progressive groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the influential business advocacy group first told The Hill.

The House Education and Labor Committee approved the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) 29-17 on Tuesday. 

PWFA would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations and basic workplace protections such as extended water breaks or stools to sit on. The bill follows the long-standing Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which protects pregnant women from being forced to leave jobs, and is modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

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“Ensuring that expectant mothers have every option to stay active in the workplace is good for women, families, and business. This legislation reduces confusion by establishing clear guidelines and a balanced process that works for employers and employees alike,” Neil Bradley, Chamber executive vice president and chief policy officer, said in a press release on Tuesday.

“Today’s markup is a clear example of what Congress can accomplish when working together, we thank the members who worked so hard to make today’s vote possible and we look forward to the full House taking up this bill,” he added.

The Chamber, which has historically been Republican-leaning, plans to call on other business groups to also endorse the bill ahead of a vote on the House floor.

“We’ve already talked to a few of the other trade groups about the bill and we’re hopeful that we’ll get positive comments on it from those groups. This is an example of a bipartisan agreement, good faith negotiations, between all sides on this,” Glenn Spencer, Chamber senior vice president of the employment policy division, told The Hill. 

ACLU formally endorsed the bill in October and has been circulating a petition to push Congress to pass it.

ACLU senior legislative counsel Vania Leveille called the vote on Tuesday an “important step forward in the fight to protect pregnant workers’ rights and economic security.”

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The Chamber’s endorsement comes after it was part of a coalition that wrote a letter to the committee on Monday, urging them to approve the manager’s amendment to the bill. 

The manager's amendment added or cleared up certain provisions such as language that it is the responsibility of the employee or employee’s representative — like a doctor, family member or union — to tell an employer about the pregnancy and what known limitations are.

It also reworked the bill to make clear that the employer suggesting leave for the employee is an acceptable, but last resort, and that, similar to the ADA, requirements under the bill would only be for employers with 15 or more employees, among other provisions.

“With the manager’s amendment, this is a strong bill and a reminder that through good faith negotiations, legislative solutions to important questions and problems can be found. We believe strongly that the manager’s amendment deserves to be approved with no changes,” the letter reads.

The letter was signed by the Chamber as well as by A Better Balance, the National Partnership for Women & Families, the National Women’s Law Center and the ACLU.