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Senate passes Pregnant Workers Fairness Act as budget bill amendment

Photo: MaxRiesgo/iStockphoto

Washington — The Senate has passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, as part of the fiscal year 2023 federal budget legislation.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would require employers with 15 or more employees to provide “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant employees (including any worker and job applicant with known limitations associated with pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions). Those accommodations would include an extra bathroom break, a stool to sit on, limiting contact with certain chemicals and a reduction in lifting requirements.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the bill as an amendment to the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2023. Needing a 60-vote threshold, the amendment passed 73-24.

“Pregnancy should never be a barrier for women who want to stay in the workplace,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) said in a press release. “This legislation would provide commonsense protections for pregnant workers … so they can continue working while not putting extra strain on their pregnancies. I have been fighting for these protections for a decade, and I want to thank my partner, Sen. Cassidy, for working tirelessly with me to get this over the finish line.”

The bill includes an exemption for religious entities – a stipulation sought by Republicans, but not initially included in the original bills in the 117th Congress. The Senate’s version (S. 1486) – sponsored by Casey – had seven Republican co-sponsors, including Cassidy, and six Democratic co-sponsors.

That bill was approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Sept. 30, 2021, but appeared destined to go no further before the 117th Congress ended Jan. 3.

The House passed its version of the bill (H.R. 1065) on May 14, 2021, in a 315-101 vote – the second time it approved that bill in an eight-month period.

The House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), had introduced six versions of the bill over the past 10-plus years, beginning in May 2012. Casey had introduced six Senate versions of the bill since September 2012.

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