Senate passes milestone protections for pregnant workers and new mothers
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act passed the Senate with bipartisan support on Thursday as amendments to the omnibus spending package.
Why it matters: It's a major milestone for women's workplace civil rights. Advocates have pushed for protections for pregnant workers for over a decade, arguing that thousands of women lose their jobs each year — either fired or placed on unpaid leave — because employers are under no obligation to offer pregnant workers reasonable accommodations.
- Those would include things like extra bathroom breaks, the ability to sit while working a cash register or restrictions on how much weight they can lift.
What they're saying: "Employers can no longer treat pregnant workers like they are expendable once they find out they are expecting a child or need a modest accommodation to prevent serious health complications," said Dina Bakst, cofounder of A Better Balance, an advocacy group that has led efforts for the past decade to pass the bill, in a statement.
Details: The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act passed the House 315-101 in August 2021. After it was introduced in the Senate, it stalled out.
- Bakst's group was leading a last push to get it passed in the lame duck. It passed on a 73-24 vote Thursday.
- The Pump Act, which passed 92-5, guarantees workers the right to break time to express milk, another big issue — particularly for hourly workers who can't always get off the clock to pump.
What's next: The amendments are part of the roughly $1.7 trillion long-term, government funding bill, which is expected to pass the Senate and head to the House for quick passage ahead of a Friday deadline.