By:  Jaclyn Diaz
Source: Bloomberg Government

Pregnancy Bias Bill Gets Tentative House Committee Markup

The House Education and Labor Committee will mark up Democratic-led legislation that would make it easier for pregnant workers to get reasonable accommodations from their employers, and is meant to solve ambiguities left by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The panel tentatively plans to take up the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694) on Jan. 14, a Democratic committee staffer told Bloomberg Law. The bill, which has backing from several notable companies, is expected to be approved largely along party lines, an outcome that would set it up for a potential floor vote. It’s likely to join a growing list of House-passed workers’ rights bills languishing in the Republican-controlled Senate, but may be used as part of a larger Democratic messaging vehicle in advance of the November elections. 

The staffer spoke on condition of anonymity because the markup has not been officially announced.

The legislation would require employers to make reasonable accommodations, including certain job modifications, that would allow pregnant workers to continue on the job unless an employer can prove the request would unduly burden the business’s operation. It would also prohibit employers from denying job opportunities to women who may need accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, as well as banning retaliation against a worker for requesting needed accommodations. 

The bill, reintroducedby Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) in May, could be the first piece of labor-related legislation the House considers in the new year. The House is also set to vote on the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (H.R. 1230), which would make it easier for workers to prove age or disability bias in court. The union-backed Protecting the Right to Organize Act (H.R. 2474) is another top labor bill progressive Democrats hope to get to the floor by early February. 

Some Business Support

Microsoft Corp., Facebook, Spotify, Levi Strauss & Co., Adobe Inc., and L’Oreal USAare among some of the large companies already supporting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, along with the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Other employers have argued the legislation is written too broadly, would create confusion, and is too difficult to implement for many businesses. 

Republican lawmakers have largely opposed similar employment legislation creating new requirements for businesses, arguing it adds too many restrictions for employers and too much red tape. 

The measure would resolve ambiguities the U.S. Supreme Court left open in its 2015 decision in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., the bill’s supporters say. The justices held in that case that a pregnant worker can raise a triable Pregnancy Discrimination Act claim by showing that her employer’s accommodations policy places a “significant burden” on pregnant employees and that the employer lacks “sufficiently strong justification” for the policy.

More than two dozen states and cities require employers with more than 15 employees to provide accommodations for pregnant workers on the job. 

Nadler, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), Jaime Herrera Beutler(R-Wash.), and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) reintroduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act on May 14. A bipartisan group introduced a similar bill in 2015, but that failed to advance.