The New York City Council unanimously passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act last week. The bill extends current protections against employer discrimination to pregnant workers and expands the city's Human Rights Law to include pregnant workers.
Employers will now be required to provide reasonable accommodations for a worker's needs related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Those accommodations can include rest breaks, a period of recovery from childbirth, and help with manual labor. Employers must also give pregnant workers written information about their rights.
These protections for pregnant women are vitally important. Almost two-thirds of first-time mothers work while pregnant, and 90 percent of those women continue to work into their last two months of pregnancy, reports ThinkProgress. Low-income women and women of color are more likely to be affected by this kind of discrimination, because they are more likely to hold low-paying jobs with limited flexibility.
The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) reports, "When women face a physical conflict between work and childbearing, they will often lose their job, and their families will lose income at the very moment their financial needs increase." For example, one pregnant woman who was a Wal-Mart sales associate started experiencing urinary and bladder infections, so she started to carry a water bottle at work under her doctor's advice to stay hydrated. She was fired because of a Wal-Mart rule that only cashiers could have water bottles. She challenged her termination in court and lost.
According to New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a fifth of discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are related to pregnancy. Last year alone, over 3,700 were filed. Under the new bill, if employers fail to follow the new bill's requirements, employees can bring actions in civil court or bring a complaint to the city's Human Rights Commission. Employers could be fined up to $250,000, face jail time, or be required to change their practices, provide compensation, or re-hire employees, among other remedies.
Currently only a handful of states provide protections for pregnant workers. A federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was reintroduced in Congress last May.
Media Resources: Gotham Gazette 9/24/13; ThinkProgress 5/14/13, 9/30/13; National Women's Law Center
5/1/2015 House Reverses DC Law Banning Reproductive Health Discrimination by Employers - The US House of Representatives voted Thursday night to overturn a Washington, DC, law that makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who use their insurance to cover procedures like in-vitro fertilization or abortion and contraception like birth control pills and IUDs for themselves, their spouses, or their children.
The District's council passed the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act last year. . . .
4/30/2015 400 Women and Children Have Been Rescued From Boko Haram in Nigeria - In two different operations in under a week, Nigerian troops have rescued more than 400 women and children who had been kidnapped by Boko Haram.
On Tuesday, Nigerian troops announced they rescued 200 girls and 93 women from Boko Haram - and today news has come out that troops rescued another 160 women and children.
While the news is promising and shows progress made in Nigeria to combat Boko Haram, the girls rescued were not the Chibok girls who inspired the #BringBackOurGirls movement last year. . . .
4/29/2015 Hillary Clinton Calls for Criminal Justice Reform and an End to Mass Incarceration - Hillary Clinton delivered the keynote address at the 18th Annual Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum today, addressing directly criminal justice reforms she would like to see to prevent another "incarceration generation."
"It's time the end the era of mass incarceration," Clinton declared to much applause, citing statistics about the disproportionately higher rate of incarceration that black men in America face. . . .