Maternity Care Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Roybal-Allard & Herrera Beutler Celebrate Passage of Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03), the founding Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Maternity Care and members of the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, celebrated the House passage of H.R. 1065, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The bill will ensure that pregnant workers can continue to do their jobs and support their families without facing discrimination or retaliation in the workplace.
Roybal-Allard and Herrera Beutler both cosponsored the legislation, which would require public sector employers and private employers with more than 15 employees to make reasonable accommodations for job applicants and workers with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum needs – like breastfeeding – so no worker needs to choose between financial security and a healthy pregnancy. The framework set forth in the bill is similar to the accommodation standard that has been in place for decades for workers with disabilities.
Each year, over 3.75 million women give birth in the United States. While not a disability, pregnancy may require simple changes to a woman’s work environment in order to allow them to safely continue to work while pregnant. When pregnant workers are forced to work without reasonable accommodations, the results can be tragic. Research has shown that physically-demanding work is associated with an increased risk of pre-term delivery and low birth weight. Women of color are disproportionately impacted by lack of access to reasonable accommodations because they are overrepresented in low-wage, physically demanding jobs.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will ensure that pregnant workers are provided the adjustments they need during the workday to stay safely employed and have healthier pregnancies. Using a framework similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act, this bill makes it easier for employers to comply with the law, and easier for pregnant workers to request the modifications that will enable them to continue working.
“I was proud to cosponsor and vote for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act because no woman should have to choose between a paycheck and a healthy pregnancy,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard. “We know that in more than half of American households, women workers are either the primary, sole, or co-breadwinners, and when they become pregnant, these women are working later into their pregnancies in order to support their families. It is critical that we ensure all mothers can continue working safely while also bringing new life into the world. I am proud to be working with my Maternity Care Caucus Co-Chair Congresswoman Herrera Beutler to raise awareness of the challenges facing low wage and minority workers during pregnancy, and to support policies and programs that will improve the lives and health of mothers and babies in all of our communities.”
“The goal for this commonsense legislation is to allow more moms to earn a paycheck and maintain their careers while carrying out a healthy pregnancy,” said Rep. Herrera Beutler. “I’m pleased that so many of my Republican and Democrat colleagues came together to advance this bill today that will ensure pregnant workers receive reasonable accommodations – a bottle of water, a stool or chair – at work. And as co-chair of the Maternity Care Caucus alongside my colleague Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, we’re going to keep pursuing bipartisan solutions like this that lead to more healthy outcomes in pregnancy and motherhood.”
In 2015, Reps. Roybal-Allard and Herrera Beutler co-founded the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Maternity Care to raise awareness about the status of childbirth across the nation and the challenges facing America’s maternity care system. The U.S. spends significantly more per capita on childbirth than any other industrialized nation, but continues to rank far behind almost all other developed countries in healthy birth outcomes for both mothers and babies. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 700 American women die annually due to pregnancy or delivery complications – and this maternal mortality crisis is only part of the overall problem. U.S. infant mortality rates are higher than 33 other similarly wealthy countries, and more than 50,000 American women per year experience severe complications in pregnancy that adversely impact their health. The U.S. has also made some of the slowest progress in the world in reducing stillbirth rates, has unacceptably high rates of preterm births and cesarean sections, and is not adequately diagnosing and treating postpartum depression. Each of these largely preventable maternal health issues are most often found in communities of color.
H.R. 1065 passed today in the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 315 to 101.