House passes bill mandating accommodations for pregnant workers

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The House on Friday passed bipartisan legislation to ensure that workplaces provide reasonable accommodations for employees dealing with pregnancy or childbirth.

The bill passed 315-101 with support from all Democrats and Republicans roughly split. A total of 99 Republicans joined with Democrats in support, while 101 voted against it.

Under the legislation, workers would be granted the right to workplace accommodations due to physical limitations imposed by their pregnancies, such as providing seating and excusing them from having to lift heavy objects.

“It is unacceptable that in 2021, pregnant workers can still be denied basic workplace accommodations that help them stay healthy during their pregnancy,” said House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.). “We can and must do better to ensure that no worker in this country is forced to choose between financial security and a healthy pregnancy.’

Many Republicans voted against the bill out of concerns that religious-based organizations would have to make accommodations that run counter to their beliefs. Rep. Julia Letlow (R-La.) warned that a faith-based employer could be accused of a violation if it doesn’t accommodate a worker’s request for paid time off for an abortion.

“One of the core tenets of the Constitution is the guarantee of religious freedom,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.), the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee. “The bill we’re discussing today deals an unnecessary blow to religious organizations potentially forcing them to make hiring decisions that conflict with their faith.”

But Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), a centrist who co-authored the legislation, rejected such notions as baseless.

He cited examples of a single mother of three who obtained a doctor’s note advising against heavy lifting was instead fired by her grocery store employer and another woman who was denied a request for a stool while working a cash register at a dollar store and later suffered complications with her pregnancy.

“The arguments against this bill made by some members of my own party are based on inaccuracies or wrongfully detract from the importance of this commonsense policy,” Katko said.

The House passed a previous version of the bill in September by a vote of 329-73, but it never moved forward in the Senate.

The legislation would build on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which already prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy in hiring, firing, pay or other conditions of employment.

Passage of the bill also comes as Democrats are preparing to consider an infrastructure package that could include a national guarantee of 12 weeks of paid leave to workers caring for newborn children or a sick family member, as proposed by President Biden.

The Family Medical Leave Act requires large employers to grant workers parental or family leave, but doesn’t require that workers are paid during the time off.

Tags Bobby Scott Family law Joe Biden John Katko Labour law Parental leave Pregnancy discrimination Virginia Foxx
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