Background and Rational for Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Action Alert
Background and Rational for Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Action Alert
Update: advocacy works!
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act passed in December 2022. Together with many CRC members and other faith groups, we have faithfully and consistently advocated for this bi-partisan legislation for a number of years. We celebrate the passage of this legislation which seeks to eliminate discrimination and promote pregnant women’s health and economic security by ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations.
What is this bill?
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is attempting once again to “eliminate discrimination and promote women’s health and economic security by ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” The law is “closely modeled” on the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It would require employers to make reasonable accommodations, such as a minor job modification, that would permit pregnant women to continue working and prevent them from being forced out on leave or out of their jobs.
The bill also bars employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
Legislators in both chambers have offered up identically titled bills numerous times since the beginning of 2012, most recently in 2017, but none has made it out of committee.
Why is it needed?
The legislation would close loopholes in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.
It would prevent workers from being denied employment opportunities based on the need for “reasonable” accommodations, including an extra bathroom break, a chair or a bottle of water. The law would also protect pregnant workers from retaliation, coercion, intimidation, threats, or interference if they request such accommodations.
Today, more pregnant women are in the workforce than ever before, and they are working later into their pregnancies. Supporting working women in maintaining healthy pregnancies is critical to reducing premature births and infant mortality, and lays a strong foundation for a baby’s long-term development. Some women—especially those in physically demanding jobs—will have a medical need for a temporary, job-related accommodation, such as assistance with heavy lifting or additional bathroom breaks, in order to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Yet, often, employers will refuse to provide the pregnant worker with the necessary accommodation, leaving her to choose between protecting her job or her health and the health of her baby.
Research suggests that stress during pregnancy, such as that which arises from losing a job and income, is associated with poor birth outcomes, including prematurity and low birth weight. Low birthweight increases the risk of infant mortality, as well as the risk of longterm disability and serious health problems.
When women do not have access to reasonable accommodations during pregnancy, they can be forced to take leave from their jobs, depleting their paid disability and sick leave even before the birth of their child. Consequently, these new mothers often must return to work immediately after birth, stripping them of the time necessary to recover from child birth, facilitate breastfeeding, and bond with their new child. These earliest experiences are critical to a baby’s healthy development, laying the foundation for their future health and success in school.The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will provide employers and pregnant workers with a clear, predictable rule: employers must provide reasonable accommodations for limitations arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless this would pose an undue hardship.
62 percent of pregnant women and new moms are in the labor force. Under current law, though, pregnant workers can be placed on unpaid leave or forced out of their jobs because of pregnancy. Young v. UPS recognized that pregnant workers may need temporary accommodations in the workplace, but placed what the lawmakers called “an undue burden on pregnant workers to prove that they were victims of discrimination.”
Why does the CRCNA care?
This legislation promotes healthy pregnancies, which are the critical first step in helping babies to grow, thrive, and reach their optimal potential.
Connection to CRCNA Ministry
This issue touches many in the CRCNA.
Scores of female members in the denomination are employed, and many families rely on the financial contribution of women to family life. In fact, many women find their employment in the CRCNA itself: women are ministers, denominational employees, and employees in congregations.
The CRCNA has identified as a critical ministry focus the importance of both economic development and ensuring maternal health. World Renew works around the world to ensure women have the care and resources they need while pregnant to ensure health for themselves and their babies. They also foster economic development, and the dignity of work, in multiple ways all over the world as a critical piece of what community development justice look like for vulnerable people. Disability Concerns has advocated to protect people from discrimination based on unique needs. Advocating for women in the U.S. to have protection from discrimination, policies that promote their health while pregnant, and reassurance of their ability to provide for themselves economically falls well in line with these global ministry tasks of the CRC.
While Scripture, creeds, and confessions, each uniquely point us to the love and providence of God in our lives, to God’s desire for justice and flourishing for all people, and God’s deep care for human life, the Contemporary Testimony (“Our World Belongs to God”) is especially helpful in the matters of modern family and work life.
16. All spheres of life—
family and friendship,
work and worship,
school and state,
play and art—
bear the wounds of our rebellion.
Sin is present everywhere—
in pride of race,
arrogance of nations,
abuse of the weak and helpless,
disregard for water, air, and soil,
destruction of living creatures,
slavery, murder, terror, and war,
worship of false gods,
the mistreatment of our bodies,
and our frantic efforts to escape reality.
We become victims of our own sin.
Among many passages, see Psalm 14 and 53, Amos 1-2, Romans 1:28-32, and Galatians 5:19-21.
48. Our work is a calling from God.
We work for more than wages
and manage for more than profit
so that mutual respect
and the just use of goods and skills
may shape the workplace.
While we earn or profit,
we love our neighbors by providing
useful products and services.
In our global economy
we advocate meaningful work
and fair wages for all.
Out of the Lord’s generosity to us,
we give freely and gladly
of our money and time.
For the place of work, see Genesis 2:15, Exodus 20:9, Ephesians 6:5-9, and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; for justice in the workplace, Ezekiel 34 and James 5:1-5; for generosity, 2 Corinthians 9 and 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12.
53. We call on all governments to do public justice
and to protect the rights and freedoms
of individuals, groups, and institutions
so that each may do their tasks.
We urge governments and pledge ourselves
to safeguard children and the elderly
from abuse and exploitation,
to bring justice to the poor and oppressed,
and to promote the freedom
to speak, work, worship, and associate.
That governments are called to justice generally and that how a government treats the poor and the weak is a key indicator of a society’s commitment to justice is taught in all the prophets and in psalms like Psalm 72.
CRCNA Positions and Mandates
One clear, overarching theme in the Bible is the importance of both God and God’s people protecting those who are vulnerable.
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. (Isaiah 1:17)
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:3-4)
Scripture speaks to God’s care for human life, even before birth.
“Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel,you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. mEven to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (Isaiah 46:3-4)
From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. (Psalm 71:6)
Scripture speaks to God’s desire that people have full, healthy, abundant life.
“They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them.” —Isaiah 65:23 (NIV)
“Christ came that we might have life, and have it abundantly!” (John 10:10)
Synod has spoken repeatedly about the issue of abortion and the CRCNA’s commitment to the Sanctity of Human Life. As part of those pronouncements, special care has consistently been taken to include the ways that the church can and must support women who are pregnant.
Synod of 1998 urged churches:
“to continue to minister sensitively to
a. Those who carry their children to term.
b. Unwed mothers and their children. . .
Ground: Our responsibilities go beyond saving the lives of the unborn. . .
“That synod urge churches and individuals to encourage governmental agencies to support programs which will address these needs.”
Synod 1976 said, “That synod call the classes, consistories, and members of our congregations in both the United States and Canada to do all in their power to protect and promote the sanctity of human life, at any age; publicizing the issues, educating people, organizing committees, and doing whatever is considered necessary to confront people with the crucial physical and moral issues which are at stake.”