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Labor and workers’ rights groups call on Senate to pass Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

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New York — A group of 28 labor and workers’ rights organizations from New York state are urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to bring to a vote the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

In an Oct. 13 letter sent to Schumer and posted on the nonprofit advocacy organization A Better Balance’s website, the group contends that the legislation is “long overdue” and would “close gaps in the law and create a clear national standard requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers who need them.”

Two separate bills are under consideration by the Senate. The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved an amendment in the nature of a substitute for S. 1486 on Aug. 3. In the House, H.R. 1065 was passed May 14 and received in the Senate three days later.

Both bills would require private-sector employers with 15 or more workers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees (i.e., workers and job applicants with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions). Those accommodations would include an extra bathroom break, a stool, limiting contact with certain chemicals and a reduction in lifting requirements.

On Oct. 22, the House passed a similar bill that would provide workplace accommodations and protections for nursing mothers – the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act. And an amendment to Minnesota law signed June 30 by Gov. Tim Walz (D) bars unpaid breaks for workers who are nursing or lactating and provides additional accommodations – including frequent restroom, food and water breaks – for those who are pregnant.

“Protecting pregnant workers is a matter of great urgency, especially during the pandemic,” the organizations write, “and they cannot wait a day longer for this bill to pass. Now is the time to act. The right to receive reasonable accommodations absent undue hardship on an employer should not depend on luck or location.”

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