Mamas on Bedrest: The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

May 17th, 2013

It’s a sad commentary on this country when we have to introduce legislation in order for people to treat pregnant women kindly; give them a little extra help and make a few logistical allowances for them to be able to work and support themselves and their families while pregnant. Be that as it may, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has been introduced to congress and is supported by democratic senators and representatives as well as a whole host women’s advocacy groups, unions and business groups.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act  works to ensure that pregnant women are not forced out of jobs unnecessarily or denied reasonable job modifications that would allow them to continue working. Currently, pregnant working women around the country are being denied simple adjustments – permission to use a stool while working a cash register, or to carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated, or temporary reassignment to lighter duty tasks – that would keep them working and supporting their families while maintaining healthy pregnancies. The bill will require that employers make reasonable adjustments while also barring employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Really?? You mean to tell me that if you are an employer and have an employee who is pregnant and a cashier, you can’t get her a stool? You’d rather fire her?  Employers are unwilling to allow their employees to have water bottles to stay hydrated? (This is important for all employees, not just the pregnant ones!!) What type of country do we live in??

While I appreciate this legislation, I am saddened and sickened that it even has to be introduced. Where has simple human decency gone? Okay, let’s just put pregnancy aside for a moment. You mean to tell me that if you have a loyal employee who suddenly becomes stricken with a medical condition (either temporary or permanent) but who is committed to doing the job, you’d rather fire him or her rather than make some minor adjustments to their work environment? I completely understand if the employee is unable to perform most of the duties of the position, then it only makes sense to replace him/her. But in the case of a cashier, if you can provide a stool you’ll keep a trusted, productive employee! In a recent blog post, I related how the Center for American Progress estimates that if an employee makes $30,000 to $75,000 annually, it costs employers approximately 20% of an ex-employee’s annual salary to replace that person. If the employee makes less than $30,000 annually, then the cost to replace him/her is approximately 16% of the annual salary. And for highly paid executives, the costs to replace them skyrockets.

Isn’t it just easier to make a few adjustments?

Kinda makes me wonder, are we really talking about money, or is this yet another battle in the war on working women, forcing us to once again choose-career or family? Why should it ever be a choice?

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