Cropped shot of a pregnant businesswoman using a laptop

Hell Yes, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Just Went Into Effect

Let's celebrate a win today!

Depending on your job, you may not have ever felt deprived of bathroom breaks at work. But up until this week in the U.S., there were no federal protections for pregnant workers in need of “reasonable accommodations” on the job—and we’re talking about extremely basic needs like bathroom breaks, sitting or drinking water more frequently, or being moved away from a heavy lifting part of the job. These are accommodations that should be available for even the cushiest of office jobs, but the lack of protections for pregnant people working in physically demanding areas like food service, agricultural work, or Amazon hell houses is particularly egregious.

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Enter the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act! This bad bitch of a bit of legislation is the result of around 10 years of hard work to close a gap in protections left open between the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). Despite Republicans’ attempts to kill it (with some truly bizarre recent claims that it was actually some kind of “abortion on demand” Trojan horse) the act finally took effect this week.

Pregnancy is, of course, not considered a disability. (It’s a gift from god designed to keep Christian women at home in the kitchen, right Republicans??) So pregnancy protections aren’t to be found in the ADA. And the PDA, while a total game-changer since it was passed in 1978, unfortunately, has a few loopholes. The PDA bans hiring and firing choices based on pregnancy but only guarantees that the treatment of a pregnant worker must be as good as other workers and nothing extra. So if other, non-pregnant workers aren’t getting special permission to take flexible hours for an ultrasound appointment or have a stool at their workstation, then tough luck!

Ideally, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will now allow pregnant people to have these “reasonable accommodations” throughout their pregnancy, giving birth, and early post-partum period. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and the PUMP Act (Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act) also provide some post-birth coverage. 

So yes, we are very happy! Good times, great, great. The only problem is these protections don’t cover everyone they should. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the law only applies to ”Covered employers,” which include private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees, Congress, Federal agencies, employment agencies, and labor organizations. It also appears to only protect “employees,” so is likely not mandated to be extended to contract employees. So, are you working for a small business? Sorry, babe. During my two high-risk pregnancies, I literally had to quit and start up again after post-partum because I was too sick to work, and I was a freelancer so … nothing! We are making strides out there, babes, but equal means equal for all, so there’s still more to do. 

(featured image: Yuri_Arcurs/Getty Images)


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Author
Cammy Pedroja
Author and independent journalist since 2015. Frequent contributor of news and commentary on social justice, politics, culture, and lifestyle to publications including The Mary Sue, Newsweek, Business Insider, Slate, Women, USA Today, and Huffington Post. Lover of forests, poetry, books, champagne, and trashy TV.